A Bowl of Cherries opens to the sounds of a bomb hitting the theatre as rising star Penny Riddle, Clare Buckfield, is caught in the midst of the Blitz. Riddle becomes one of two trapped ghosts, the other being stagehand Albert Farthing , Graham Macduff, who observe and occasionally comment on the series of vignettes that make up this musical.
Directed by Andrew C. Wadsworth, this show is a series of thematically linked sketches rather than a musical. The first act is somewhat confused; lacking a clear narrative the disjointed scenes jump around Britain with no apparent rationale. Macduff and Buckfield, both great performers, persevere despite the underdeveloped narrative not giving them much scope.
The cast gave consistent performances, shining through the confused material
With Buckfield’s rendition of “Can’t Smile Without You” closing the first act, however, the show began to find its feet. Some superb moments followed; Julie Jupp – a consistently powerful presence – and the charming Gary Wilmot depicted a warring married couple with panache.
Carolyn Pertwee’s bittersweet book is certainly not lacking in ideas, treading the line between optimism and cynicism, but it often lost momentum. The cast gave consistent performances, shining through the confused material, in particular Kate Graham and Eaton James. Songs by veteran songwriter David Martin were generally well placed and Tom Kelly’s band generated a wonderful sound.
A Bowl of Cherries is let down by the lack of development in the narratives, however, the production is engaging, oftentimes moving. It is not consistently good, but in parts, it almost touches great.
** 2 stars
Runs until 31st March