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
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