Plaza Suite

Bournemouth Little Theatre Bournemouth Little Theatre, Bournemouth JJ 4 June 2024


I was very much looking forward to seeing this classic Neil Simon play. Although perhaps becoming a little dated, it is a funny comedy and it is not performed as often as it should be.

The play is set in the same suite in the Plaza Hotel in New York in 1968/9. It is split into three acts each involving a different couple who occupy the suite at that time. The set stays the same throughout and although the set was good it did not convey the sense of luxury and opulence I would have liked to have seen. The status of the hotel was better reported than presented. The use of the fitted carpet was very pleasing though.

Act 1 introduced us Karen Nash (Tracie Billington-Beardsley) who had organised a night in the same suite (or was it?) that she had spent on her wedding night with husband Sam (Peter Watson) 33 or possibly 34 years ago! Inevitably all is not quite what it seems to be. Tracie and Peter worked very well together and were convincing as the couple going through a later-life crisis. The pace was great and it was hard to believe this was the opening night of the show as it was a polished performance, though Peter does need to keep the volume up.

The interval came after Act 1 and the introduction of Andrea Pellegrini to sing some period songs from the balcony during the interval was a lovely touch. A good number of the audience remained in the auditorium to enjoy the lovely singing.

Act 2 brings us Jesse Kiplinger (Topher Lynn) and Muriel Yate (Emma Seymour).  Jesse, a now successful film producer with a history of failed marriages behind him, invited an old high school flame, Muriel Tate (Emma Seymour), now married with children, to meet him.  They hadn’t met for 17 years but both had retained a flame for the other.  Topher and Emma had chemistry and again worked beautifully together. Emma’s timing and portrayal of Muriel was fabulous.

After a short pause Act 2 moved straight into Act 3 where we met Norma Hubley (Chrissie Derrington) and her husband Roy Hubley (Tim Fearon), dressed up for the wedding of their daughter, Mimsie (Jean McCormack), which, we are constantly reminded, Roy is paying for at great expense. This is the most farcical of the three Acts and the dialogue is especially funny. Chrissie was a tour de force as Norma, essentially holding the Act together, and Tim was comical in full Walter Matthau mode. In the 1971 film Walter Matthau played all three male parts, though this character was clearly the most suited for him.

David McGouran stepped in as the Waiter/ Bellhop in the first two acts and as Borden Eilser in Act 3. I’m not sure the wig was necessary and I would rather have heard a solid American accent rather than an attempt at a New York twang.  Anne Charbel supported Act 2 as the PA Jean McCormack (a very nice turn) and as Mimsie Hubley in Act 3. Small parts but both helped keep the action going when required.

The American accents were overall good. No doubt in no small part to Anne who I read hails from the US and acted as the Dialect Coach for the production. Good job!

The costumes worked well and largely seemed to be in period. It is always a tough job to costume for the more recent past.

It was an excellent show with principally strong casts. As ever the theatre was packed and I understand it has sold well over the whole week. It plays until Saturday 8th June and I would urge you to go along if you can get a ticket! A word of warning, however: I had forgotten how fiendishly hot the theatre can get over the warmer months and I wish I had gone for the same shorts and t-shirt combination as some of the shrewder audience!