This Noel Coward double bill, reprised at the Old Red Lion Theatre Pub by Anthony Lau for Folie a deux, is made up of two short plays that Coward created and performed together with actress Gertrude Lawrence. Still Life, which was the precursor to the great film Brief Encounter, reveals the kindling of a love affair between a housewife and a doctor that begins in a train station cafe.
Perhaps the most frustrating element of Folie a deux’s production of Still Life is the busyness of it all. Amongst the fantastic, highly realistic set – a dark oak cafe bar designed by James Turner – characters bustle about, sweeping, pouring tea, opening cupboards and cleaning glasses – all of which distract from the great love affair at its centre. The quiet, nervous intensity of lovers Alec and Laura, played by Freddie Capper and Georgina Strawson respectively, gets lost amidst the constant activity and lack of stillness (ironically, given the play’s title), sacrificing poignancy and intimacy in its wake. Despite this bustle, it is Laura Hanna, playing Dolly, who injects some much needed energy into this piece towards the end.
The two musical numbers that are performed by the duo are funny and wild
Red Peppers, on the other hand, has all the energy of Powerade. Simon Manyonda as George Pepper, and Laura Hanna as Lily Pepper, play a sniping, bickering couple who must perform their music hall double act on stage with big smiles and jazz hands. The two musical numbers that are performed by the duo are funny and wild, albeit difficult to follow, and their interactions off-stage tend to follow suit. This play is too short to really get one’s teeth into the characters, however, which leaves one feeling distinctly underwhelmed. A little bit farcical, a little bit brash, and beautifully staged, Still Life/Red Peppers is, in parts, charming, but lacks characters that the audience can really invest in.
** (2 stars)
Runs until 24th August 2013