Far more light-hearted than Zeller’s extremely moving critical success “The Father,” it’s every bit as accomplished as self-righteous, middle-aged Michel (faultless Alexander Hanson – just watch him squirm) digs himself deeper and deeper into a mendacious hole whilst still claiming the moral high ground.
He’s been married (apparently happily) for twenty years to Tanya Franks’ self-possessed Laurence – but that hasn’t stopped him embarking on a several month long affair (he can’t remember how long exactly) with Frances O’Connor’s Alice, a chic doctor who just happens to be married to his best friend and tennis opponent Paul (Robert Portal, not giving anything away).
As one might expect from this clever playwright, nothing is quite as it seems – and over the course of a swift 90 minutes (and with more than a nod to Harold Pinter’s more serious, triangular “Betrayal”) Lindsay Posner’s expertly directed production keeps this deliciously funny and sophisticated comedy of marital infidelity, male rivalry and hypocritical hidden truths bubbling along very nicely. Not to be missed
If you like your entertainment considerably broader and a lot more energetic, THE PAINKILLER, which also originated in France, might be right up your street.
The latest offering in multi-talented Kenneth Branagh’s current season at the Garrick, Sean Foley’s adaptation of Francis Veber’s 1969 Parisian hit “Le Contrat” moves the action to London and sets it in two adjacent hotel bedrooms (where even the fruit colour-matches the décor) just before a high profile trial. A suicidal journalist from the Swindon Advertiser (Rob Brydon’s very Welsh Dudley, whose wife Michelle has left him) has booked into one of them, and Branagh’s cool, hired assassin Ralph has checked into the other Both are there to “shoot” the accused – but in very different ways.
It’s all very niftily orchestrated, with trousers ending up round ankles and a lot of middle-aged male flesh on show as doors are slammed in classic farce fashion, and Ralph and Dudley – not to mention a policeman and Michelle’s new partner (her psychiatrist) – end up in all sorts of compromising positions, much to the consternation of Mark Hadfield’s camp and increasingly flustered porter. Reluctantly entrusted with keeping watch over the needy Dudley – and then injected with a hefty dose of ketamine – Branagh proves that, in addition to being a fine serious actor, he has a great gift for physical comedy as the drug takes over Ralph’s motor powers. And Brydon is every bit the useless plonker the script demands in a production which is deliberately low on subtlety but good for a laugh.
Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU
Tube:- London Bridge
Till 7th May
£35.00-£37.50 (Meal Deals £43.00)
Garrick, Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0HH
Till 30th April
£35.00 – £65 + premium seats