Charles and Vivienne Brooks are hosting a dinner party for their friends as a way of celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. Delightful! Well, it would be – if it weren’t for the fact that Vivienne has disappeared, the staff have walked out, the prepared dinner ingredients are uncooked in the kitchen and the first guests arrive to the sound of a gunshot as Charlie is discovered upstairs with a bullet hole through his earlobe…!
American playwright Neil Simons originally wrote Rumors as a disastrous dinner party held in the elite Palisades north of New York, but Chesil Theatre have (very sensibly) chosen to perform the British version, Rumours, that has been transported to a middle-class Home Counties location and is set in the 1990s, before the proliferation of mobile phones (an important factor in regards to the plot). I say sensible, and I believe that it is because it has meant that Director Flavia Bateson could ensure that this celebrated comedy would be performed at the cracking pace that farce demands, without the distraction and hesitations of potentially unauthentic American accents. Rapid speed has been extremely well achieved with both snappy dialogue and blisteringly quick entrances and exits through the set’s five doors (traditional for farce), without succumbing to the risk of garbled and unintelligible dialect – not an easy balance to successfully achieve, and full credit to both Director and cast that they have indeed managed to effectively realize this balance with some considerable style,
This is a very cohesive ensemble production, with the cast well matched, creating credible and very comical characters, and each has their moments to shine. It seems churlish to single out actors amongst such an interconnected group, but Christina Pye (Claire Cumming) is excellent with the quality of her deadpan observations, her reactive facial expressions and her active listening, never breaking characterisation; David Baldwin (Brian Cusack) is charmingly engaging as psychiatrist Brian Cusack, making a delightfully convincing couple with Heather Bryant as his wife, Katy; Nicky Malliarou (Cassie Bevan) is simply born to play comedy roles, with excellent comic timing and physicality; and John Wakerman’s ‘off-the-cuff’ explanation of the evening’s events to the policewomen thoroughly deserved the audience applause it received today!
The production elements may appear simple on the surface, but there is an underlying attention to detail which enhances and unites the production overall, such as the matching splashes of colour in the couples’ costumes and gift wrappings, the site-specific sound effects and the way that the car headlights are visible through the window as each couple arrives to the party. The set may be appear to be simple but the different levels and doors are all used most effectively.
This might be the “dinner party from hell” but it is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the group’s exploits!
The Rumours will continue running until Saturday 23 November, 7.45pm each evening.