Tag Archives: David Woodward

BAREFOOT IN THE PARK

Barefoot in the Park

★★★★

The Mill at Sonning

BAREFOOT IN THE PARK

Barefoot in the Park

The Mill at Sonning

Reviewed – 8th July 2022

★★★★

 

“This delighful soufflé of a play is a sure-fire hit”

 

The Mill at Sonning is a jewel of a theatre unlike any other. A picturesque and very derelict watermill was converted into a playhouse some 40 years ago and the same family run it to this day, serving up a sustaining combo of buffet dinner in the restaurant followed by good old-fashioned theatrical entertainment in the newly airconditioned 215 seat theatre. It’s little wonder audiences are so enthusiastic and loyal.

Neil Simon’s romantic comedy ‘Barefoot in the Park’ was a hit for Robert Redford when it opened on Broadway in 1963. Set in a flakey fifth floor apartment at the top of a New York brownstone, the play’s theme is young love and what happens when opposites attract.

Buttoned-up newbie attorney Paul Bratter (Jonny Labey, Eastenders’ Paul Coker) thinks that slipping into a less formal tie while he works on his legal papers is the perfect way to spend the evening. His wife of six days Corrie (Hannah Pauley) has other ideas. A boozy Albanian dinner setting up her mother with a Hungarian lothario (splendidly flamboyant James Simmons)? No problem. The cracks in this new relationship begin to show just as soon as the newly weds attempt to settle into their less than ideal new apartment.

Labey is well-cast in the role of Paul. He has excellent characterisation and delivery, and a fire-cracker turnaround in the final scene. Hannah Pauley fizzes with charm as his mismatched wife Corrie Bratter. Rachel Fielding as her mother has some scene-stealing moments as she has her own little epiphany in the second half. There’s a nicely delivered running gag about the inaccessibilty of the apartment and some witty repartee from Oliver Stanley as the repairman Harry Pepper.

This delighful soufflé of a play is a sure-fire hit for the Mill at Sonning. Great performances of some sassy dialogue, tight direction (Robin Herford), period outfits (Natalie Titchener) and a proper time machine of a set (Michael Holt). One happy audience guaranteed.

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Andreas Lambis Photography

 


Barefoot in the Park

The Mill at Sonning until 20th August

 

Recently reviewed by David:
Dorian | ★★★★ | Reading Rep Theatre | October 2021
Spike | ★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | January 2022

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Spike

Spike

★★★★

Watermill Theatre

Spike

Spike

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 31st January 2022

★★★★

 

“John Dagleish embodies Spike Milligan in a memorably empathetic way”

 

This tribute to the comedy legend Spike Milligan is the work of ‘Private Eye’ editor Ian Hislop and his colleague and friend Nick Newman. It coincides with the 20th anniversary of the death of this renowned writer of the BBC’s anarchic radio comedy show ‘The Goon Show’, which ran from 1951 to 1960.

Many under the age of 45 will be barely aware of Milligan, who as Stephen Fry, in the guise of a BBC announcer, points out at the end of the show, was comedic gold for generations that followed him. ‘The Goon Show’ was a brilliantly disruptive success for the Corporation, even if the managers there didn’t quite understand it. It remains available online to this day.

There are jokes and madcap nonsense by the box load in this warm and affectionate play which grew out of a reading of the extensive and argumentative correspondence between Milligan and the BBC. Spike discovered the BBC was run by the same officer class he’d resented in wartime. Why, he wanted to know, was the writer of the show paid a fraction of that given to the ‘talent’ Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers? And what was wrong with poking fun at royalty?

The play is structured as a loose series of chronologically arranged scenes beginning with the very early days of ‘The Goon Show’, just six years after the end of the Second World War. The BBC was male-dominated then. By way of balance, Margaret Cabourn-Smith opens the show as the likeably goofy sound effects girl who like her colleague the Head of Drama’s Secretary, ‘will some day run the place’.

Robert Mountford is the entertainingly preening BBC executive who is quick to give Spike a dressing down that flips him to the nightmares of wartime. John Dagleish embodies Spike Milligan in a memorably empathetic way. He has the look of Spike, who he imagines as a troubled and inward looking outsider, still fighting a war at the BBC.

Jeremy Lloyd gives an excellent impersonation of the young Harry Secombe and the trio of Goons is completed by George Kemp (of Bridgerton) as a suave and smooth-talking Peter Sellers. James Mack gives a tour-de-force performance as the harried Director of ‘The Goon Show’. Ellie Morris memorably plays Spike’s inevitably long-suffering wife, June, as well as other roles.

‘Spike’ is probably at its best in the second half when we see a Goon Show being recorded. If the ending of the play was slightly unexpected (and there was no ‘Ying Tong iddle-i-po’!), it was hard to imagine how else to bring down such a hugely entertaining show.

Spike Milligan once joked that he’d be remembered as the man who ‘wrote the Goons and then died’. This show is an enjoyable celebration of his life’s work and a feast of nostalgic fun that will delight audiences of all ages.

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


Spike

Watermill Theatre until 5th March

 

Recently reviewed at this venue:
Brief Encounter | ★★★ | October 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews