Fringe Box



‘Barefoot in the Park’ – Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 4 Apr, 2012
Updated on: 4 Apr, 2012

Maureen Lipman stars in, and directs, the Yvonne Arnaud’s own in-house production of this revival of a classic play about newly-weds, by American script supremo, Neil Simon. The age-old ménage à trois: cast, production crew, and script are here joined together in an elemental marriage of exquisite comic chemistry.

It’s 1963, and the newly-wedded Bratters have just exchanged the recent bliss of a hotel honeymoon for the stressful realities of their first tenancy, in a mid-Manhattan high-rise apartment. To complicate this transition, they are tasked with entertaining impromptu visits from Ethel Banks, the bride’s mother – recently bereft of her daughter’s company, and their new neighbour, the ebullient Victor Velasco.

From the moment the curtain rises, we are struck by the fantastic detail of Tim Goodchild’s set, where the singular setting of the high-rise environment is so important to the atmosphere of the play.
The ensemble cast provide a delectable smorgasbord of verbal and physical comedy. We marvel at Oliver Cotton’s (Velasco) character eccentricities, whilst he ensures his neighbourly exhibitions are not merely frivolous, but come from a hidden source of human warmth.

Faye Castelow (Corrie Bratter) plays the rambunctious bride with brilliance. Enthusiasm can be a dangerous thing to play, but we are engulfed from the moment she suffocates her husband with kisses. The exuberant energies of the bride are offset by Dominic Tighe’s (Paul Bratter) wonderfully repressed husband and we delight in the opposition posed by his controlled ire; even to his contracting of man flu, through his impressive adenoidal delivery.

Maureen Lipman deserves a double review for her intricately crafted turn as Ethel Banks, and for her comprehensive direction (with co-direction from Peter Cregeen). Details of characterisation show care for the smallest of nuances – from Hayward Morse’s (Delivery Man) disdain at being insufficiently tipped, to David Partridge’s (Telephone Repair Man) awkward mediation of a marital row.

The comedy is not allowed to tire, as we are carried through at a relentless pace. At every step, the direction serves the tone and rhythms of the script with beautiful care, whilst ensuring that the limelight falls equally across all the characters.Furthermore, the actors have clearly been allowed the freedom to enjoy the fullness of their roles, and this delight was infectious for a packed-house audience.

This play transcends audience age and sensibility. From socks-with-sandals lovers, to full-barefoot devotees, I challenge you not to be deeply charmed by this universal human comedy.

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