A Song at Twilight
Cambridge Arts Theatre
Reviewed – 4th March 2019
“Callow’s performance is everything you’d expect”
A Song at Twilight is one of a trio of plays written by Noël Coward (collectively entitled Suite in Three Keys) all of which are set in the same suite in a luxury hotel in Switzerland. This enchanting play was first produced in 1966 and its revival is currently playing at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge as part of a UK Tour.
Upon entering the theatre the audience is greeted by a closed set. When the lights dimmed and the curtain rose we were impressed by Simon Higlett’s fabulous set that successfully recreates an elegant and opulent high windowed hotel suite overlooking a beautiful moonlit lake.
In the original production, set in the mid sixties, Coward himself played the central character of ageing author Sir Hugo Latymer. The part this time is taken by the quintessentially English thespian Simon Callow. Joining him is Jane Asher (Carlotta Grey), Jessica Turner (Lady Hilde Latymer) and Ash Rizi (Felix).
Stephen Unwin’s direction is near perfect. The cast use the set well and the pace of exchanges in this witty and engaging play means that the attention of the audience is grabbed from the beginning and retained until the curtain call. The lighting (Ben Ormerod) whilst simple, subtly and effectively changes with the moods of the events that unfold.
Callow’s performance is everything you’d expect from an actor of his status and reputation, in fact the whole cast was outstanding throughout. Jessica Turner spends a fair amount of time offstage but whilst onstage she expertly projects the various layers of Hilde’s personality. Jane Asher is perfectly cast and produces a stylish and elegant performance that shines throughout the evening. Whilst taking a smaller role Ash Rizi delivers an assured performance as the discreet waiter.
Overall I found this to be a very enjoyable evening in a welcoming Cambridge theatre, watching a multi layered piece of work with a tremendous cast. It is a highly recommended production.
Reviewed by Steve Sparrow
Photography by Nobby Clark
A Song at Twilight
Cambridge Arts Theatre until 9th March then UK tour continues
Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Reviewed – 7th September 2018
“in modernising the poetic writing, the atmosphere of reality in the first half leaves us unprepared for the expressionism of the second”
The first of Federico Garcia Lorca’s famous trilogy of tragedies expressing extreme elemental passions and the powerful Spanish theme of honour, ‘Blood Wedding’ is a poetic drama set in rural Andalucia. Influenced strongly by the past – medieval ballads, traditional songs and early metrical structure – he also incorporates modern and surrealist ideas, shocking in his day. Director, George Richmond-Scott, updates the story to present day London, leaving the verse dialogue behind and omitting characters, in particular the wedding entourage, which have a somewhat Greek chorus effect in the original. However, in relocating both in time and place, we lose the essence of close-knit family feuds, social pressures and the submissive position of women, which undermine the burning sense of calamity and resignation. And in modernising the poetic writing, the atmosphere of reality in the first half leaves us unprepared for the expressionism of the second.
The cast complement each other in style, creating moments of humour, music and movement but it is Maria de Lima as the Mother who is the underlying strength of the play, carrying her pain throughout as a reminder of humanity’s tragic impotence. The smouldering sentiments of Leo (Ash Rizi) are quietly but intensely present and the Wife’s sad fate is beautifully portrayed by Miztli Rose Neville. The Son and the Bride (Federico Trujillo and Racheal Ofori) each have their poignant moment – the opening scene showing the touching connection between Mother and Son, and the Bride’s moving declaration to Leo in the third act, but the weight of their doomed relationship fails to come across. Camilla Mathias’ musical interludes fit invitingly into the narrative as does her cameo role as the Neighbour, and Yorgos Karamalegos personifies the Moon with expressive movement, strangely out of place in this real-world concept.
While Christianna Mason’s set design fills the unadorned stage with doorways, platforms and steps to create a feeling of urban space, Richmond-Scott’s artful direction uses the whole theatre, cleverly involving the audience in the action. Lorca’s stage directions are very precise and he gives clear instructions for music, sound and colour. The lighting (Jack Weir) gives dramatic context to the bareness of the surroundings and the sound by Daniel Balfour is perfectly coordinated with the action, adding extra dimension to the scenes.
It is an innovative idea to remodel such a profoundly traditional piece of theatre. It has a relatable script, genuinely tortuous emotions, immersive involvement and abstract interaction but it is an uneven production in the general structure and on an emotional level.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Nick Arthur Daniel
Omnibus Theatre until 23rd September