Losing Louis

Broadstone Players Theatre Company   Broadstone War Memorial Hall, Broadstone Jill Richmond

20 February 2024

Losing Louis, written by British playwright Simon Mendes Da Costa, premiered back in 2005 and is, with its echoes of an Alan Ayckbourn, a bedroom black comedy and a very good one at that. The play, set in the marital bedroom of the play’s namesake Louis and his wife Bobbie Ellis, alternates between a year in the 1960s and the day of Louis’ funeral in 2019. The play boldly deals with many of life’s harder topics, perhaps too many creating too much of a winding rollercoaster ride, and heavy and unforgiving parts for some of the characters. In my opinion the removal of a character in an off-stage accident is a slightly weak point in the story due to its convenience. However, don’t stop reading just yet…

Simon Mendes Da Costa utilises his strength in comedy to provide a constant energy throughout, keeping the audience focused and laughing loudly. Perhaps he goes a little far in his scene of characters telling each other jokes after the funeral, which for me breaks the focus and removes the audience from the play. Nonetheless the scriptwriting is in some scenes wonderful and it is abundantly clear as to why Mendes Da Costa was nominated for ‘Most Promising Playwright’ at the Evening Standard Awards in 2005, and theatre undeniably needs more of his work. The weaving of the story through time is an artform worth watching in its own right and the comedy will hold you on the journey and stay with you as you head home.

Broadstone Players made a good decision to bring Losing Louis to their local War Memorial Hall and in part provided a strong performance on opening night. The bedroom set is well designed and with a good carpet – the floor so often is forgotten about! This makes movement around the stage quiet and Paul Senitt’s direction works effectively well, allowing natural movement across the stage and a consistent flow of energy throughout.

In the 1960s scenes we explore the relationships between Louis (a solid performance from Scott Bedwell), his wife Bobbie (Chloe Partridge) and his ‘love’ Bella (Katie Walker). Dealing with the issues of pregnancy, child loss, parenting and affairs, these scenes are often heavy going and occasionally I felt perhaps asked a bit too much of the actors to portray with convincing emotion throughout. That said, I felt they are all engaging performances and Chloe Partridge (congratulations for a strong first time on stage – one to watch out for) and Katie Walker (with an excellent characterisation) worked particularly well together in navigating their characters’ complicated relationship.

The 2019 scenes provide the humour to proceedings as the characters traverse the meeting, after many years, of the two brothers and their wives. Full of social comedy these scenes are held together well. Peter Watson plays the younger brother Reggie with powerful stage presence and delivers the lines with good comedic timing. His mutual dislike for his older brother Tony (played by the suitably disgruntled Michael MacKey) is entertaining to watch unravel. Jenny Hughes as Sheila, Tony’s wife, uses good physical acting and expertly delivers her bad-taste jokes, providing the biggest laugh of the night. Only Reggie’s wife, Elizabeth, isn’t laughing too much – suitably condescendingly played by Cheryl Connor.

This is definitely a play to make sure you don’t miss out on.

Performances run: Tuesday 20 – Saturday 24 February. Evenings: 7:30pm & Saturday Matinee: 2.15pm. Tickets are £10.00.

[Editorial: Available in person from Broadstone News, via phone (01202 678449) or by email.]