Review by Samela Harris
What a pleasant confection of a play.
Jill Hyem, who died in 2015, was a prolific writer of plays and TV series which tapped nicely into the general zeitgeist of English life and times; in this case, the yen of English women of retirement age to start life anew in Paris. Hence, this play is about Nancy the retired headmistress who invites her recently-widowed friend Anna to come and stay with her in an apartment in Paris. It becomes a liberating experience for them both as they deal with both a charming out-of-work actor/handyman and a venomous French landlady.
The characters are all a bit on the cookie-cutter side but agreeably so, albeit there are a few harsh words on both sides about the English versus the French. Also, much of the script is in French, an extra stretch for the cast but delivered with chutzpah by all. An added expatriate Englishwoman, Rachel aka Raquel, adds chemistry to the social soup, and lots of humour. Sue Wylie in a moveable feast of shoes and hair pieces, frocks and attitudes, carries her off to a delicious tee. Deb Walsh delivers good, solid Nancy while Lindy LeCornu is both mannered and amusing as mousy Anna. Versatile Peter Davis embodies the agreeable Frenchman, Charlot, with accomplished physical eloquence and some lovely bi-lingual parrying. Vicki Horwood stalks into character as the villain of the piece, the venal and judgemental landlady, and makes her easy to hate.
Director Norm Caddick has given the play an easy, relaxed pace and designer Brittany Daw has picked up on a very French colour scheme for the rather under-decorated Paris rental. Sound designer Ray Trowbridge, having chosen some lovely inter-scenes French music, was doubtless having kittens when the rainstorms broke over The Arts Theatre on opening night drowning out actors’ voices. Of course, the show went on and a jolly good time was had by all.