Tag Archives: Paul Miller

“While The Sun Shines” at the Orange Tree Theatre

There are plenty of laughs while Paul Miller’s triumphant production of Terence Rattigan’s brilliant comedy lights up the stage. This is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. 

The wartime wedding of Earl Harpeden and Lady Elisabeth becomes a farce when she meets two Allied soldiers who make her think again about getting hitched. The trouble is a question of experience: blasé  Bobbie has been around, while Elisabeth is too innocent for both their good.  

Philip Labey takes the lead as the Earl with an “open boyish manner” balanced by a knowing touch: this toff is nice and not dim. Labey’s is a massive role marked by a generosity to colleagues that benefits all. And Labey has the ability to generate sympathy; for all the flippancy and fun, I wanted the marriage to go ahead. Rebecca Collingwood plays the intended, showing Elisabeth has a mind of her own. Collingwood’s depiction of wide-eyed innocence is funnier than you can imagine – howls of laughter greet the simplest statements. 

Rebecca Collingwood in While the Sun Shines - photo by Ali Wright
Rebecca Collingwood as Lady Elisabeth

Conor Glean is an appealing Lieutenant Mulvaney fresh off the boat from the US of A. The performance is neat and the humour gentle. Michael Lumsden and John Hudson play a bluff Major and a refined butler respectively – both to perfection. If Jordan Mifsúd’s Lieutenant Colbert got more laughs from me, put it down to ‘appy memories of ‘Allo ‘Allo. Mifsúd’s faux-French is a skilled work of genius. 

Sophie Khan Levy in While the Sun Shines - photo by Ali Wright_
Sophie Khan Levy

Really stealing the show is the man-eater and self-confessed trollop Mabel Crum. I wonder if she was Rattigan’s favourite part? Mabel gets laughs even when she’s not on stage. Sophie Khan Levy’s embodiment of this confident and caring character shows how essential the role is in this carefully constructed play. 

It’s Mabel who ends up in charge. Don’t be fooled that she’s continually sent to the kitchen. Prodding male egos in While The Sun Shines shows a subversive touch that has aged well. The distasteful attempts at seduction would have been as off for Rattigan as they are for us, but offence is deflated by how useless the men are! And it isn’t just one couple under the microscope here – it’s the institution of marriage. That Mabel stands aloof from it all makes her a character to cheer. Mabel gets the last laugh. The audience laugh all along. 

Until 8 January 2022 

www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk 

 Photos by Ali Wright

“Shaw Shorts” at the Orange Tree Theatre

Two Bernard Shaw tales of topsy-turvy love affairs – smart, insightful and great fun – make a strong beginning for this Richmond venue’s exciting ‘Recovery’ season.

Directed with precision by Shaw expert Paul Miller, both half-hour pieces poke fun at moralising and pretension, taking a dig at contrarian sophisticates (Shaw even puts in a joke at his own expense). The dense dialogue – impeccably delivered – brims with intelligence and wit.

How He Lied To Her Husband

Dorothea-Myer-Bennett-and-Joe-Bolland-in-SHAW-SHORTS-at-the-Orange-Tree-Theatre
Dorothea Myer-Bennett and Joe Bolland

First up is an almost-affair between a married woman and a young poet that has delightful performances from Dorothea Myer-Bennett and Joe Bolland. “Nothing improper” has happened between Mrs Bompas and Mr Apjohn… and, just as it might, they start to argue.

The arrival of the husband provides a neat twist that Jordan Mifsúd (pictured top), who brings considerable swagger to the “prosaic” Mr Bompas, makes the most of. The dynamic between the trio proves unexpected and builds in humour.

To the detriment of the whole, Shaw is preoccupied with the character of Apjohn, the poet, who makes silly claims to live on a “higher plane” and feels “growing pains” at his loss of Romanticism. Despite Miller’s balanced direction and Bolland’s efforts, the satire and the fin-de-siècle trope of anguished artist, hasn’t aged well.

Overruled

Alex-Bhat-and-Hara-Yannas-in-SHAW-SHORTS-at-the-Orange-Tree-Theatre
Alex Bhat and Hara Cannas

Time has been kinder to the second show, which is funnier as a result. Two couples have holiday romances with each other, then accidentally meet, and even attempt to compromise about continuing their flirtations.

The base for the comedy is strong and the women in the piece stronger. With another superb performance (in a more interesting role) Myers-Bennett is joined by Hara Yannas, who differentiates her sweeter character well.

The men – hopeless in different ways – are funnier still as we get to laugh at their neurosis and (always a hoot) a touch of mid-life crisis. Mifsúd lets his hair down (literally) as a lawyer on the loose, while Alex Bhat has a great time with tongue-twisting lines and convoluted arguments.

All the characters give the impression that the risks of an extra marital affair are more exciting than the sex involved itself… a view Shaw mocks as abstract and downright odd. The comedic tension created is, like the claims made about the danger of an affair, “delicious”. And the delivery from all, marked by a justified confidence, is a real treat. 

Enjoy the plays live or take advantage of the OT ON SCREEN programme (planned for the whole season), which broadcasts this show on 3 and 4 June.

Until 26 June 2021

www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk

Photos by The Other Richard