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Stage Dragon Review: An Hour And A Half Late At The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 29 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 29 Mar, 2022

By Ferenc Hepp

This is a wonderful Five Star production of An Hour and a Half Late at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

It stars the Olivier Award winning combination of Griff Rhys Jones (Fagin in Cameron Mackintosh’s Oliver!, Toad in the National Theatre’s The Wind in the Willows, and BBC’s Not the Nine O’Clock News and Smith & Jones) and Janie Dee (Carousel, Comic Potential, Hello Dolly and more recently Follies at the National Theatre).

An Hour and a Half Late at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

The play by Gerald Sibleyras with Jean Dell, adapted and directed by Belinda Lang, tells the tale of a retirement age couple, Peter and Laura, who are very well off in their latter years and are about to seal a lucrative deal with Peter’s colleague over dinner, when Laura suddenly decides that she is not going to join this dinner party.

What follows, is an hour and a half of verbal and physical interaction between Peter and Laura, encompassing a myriad of emotions, with the subject of this extended discussion involving their past, the present and their future.

An Hour And A Half Late with Griff Rhys Jones as Peter and Janie Dee as Laura. Photo by Marc Brenner.

The luxury apartment is up-to-date with plenty to look at, but not cluttered. The set design by Fotini Dimou makes me want to move in, and the direction by Belinda Lang is natural, making the action look like we are just looking at an ordinary couple dealing with their lives via hidden cameras.

Laura seems very negative at the start, as she states: “Death is all I have to look forward to.” but Peter tries to play it down as “It’s perfectly normal” and is just keen to get to this dinner, by holding on to the door knob with one hand, much to Laura’s annoyance.

Gryff Rhys Jones in An Hour And A half Late at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Once Peter resigns to the fact that they were not going to make this dinner party, the couple’s animated discussions include subjects such as past affairs, political views, their children, home routines, work lives, as well as their habits in the bedroom.

What first seems to be quite traditional, boring lifestyles, turn out to have much more substance, which keeps us interested and entertained for the full hour and a half.

From the doom and gloom of Laura’s pessimism about the future, Peter points out that: “These are the last days of our lives and we have to enjoy them,” and the mood changes to a more reckless one, with the order and routine of the household being broken up in more ways than one.

Janie Dee as Laura in An Hour And A Half Late at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Photo by Marc Brennan. by Marc Brenner.

But what will be the conclusion?

Will Laura eventually agree to go to this dinner despite being an hour and a half late? How will their relationship be affected by the events of the evening?

Rhys Jones does not seem to have aged since his Smith & Jones days. He still has his distinctive voice and demeanour which means that there is laughter even when he is not speaking, and he still has exceptional comic timing with it.

Gryff Rhys Jones as Peter and Janie Dee as Laura in A Hour And A Half Late at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Dee takes a little longer to get going, but Laura’s mood swings she portrays are fascinating throughout, and keeps us on the edge of our seats to see how the issues would be resolved, but with plenty of hilarity thrown in.

This national tour by PW Productions, Theatre Royal Bath Productions, and Karl Sydow, in association with Nick of Time Productions of An Hour and a Half Late runs in Guildford until Saturday, April 2.

Tickets are available via the box office on 01483 440000 or online at www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk.

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