Review by Ewart Shaw
“We’ll always have Paris”, is one of the great lines from Casablanca, but you know that because you read reviews in Broadway World. Two old lovers part, never to meet again. Playwright Jill Hyem has chosen it for a play in which almost nothing happens, but it happens in Paris.
Veteran director, Norm Caddick, saw the potential in the play and cast wisely for the Adelaide Repertory Theatre Society, because the three women keep your attention throughout. Deb Walsh is Nancy, a retired teacher, living in a small Paris apartment with plumbing problems. She is preparing a welcome lunch for Anna, a recently widowed old school friend, while chatting to Charlot, the handyman. Lunch is set for three people but two bottles of red wine are opened. Lindy LeCornu, as Anna, is a country mouse come to the big city. For twenty years, she nursed her husband who has finally died, leaving her with a freedom she may be too old to enjoy.
Enter Raquel; she who was Rachel, another school pal, but dumped her dull husband and had work done. Lots of it. Sue Wylie is unrecognizable at the start of the play. That mane of silver hair distracts. Raquel drinks like a fish, make that two fish. She picks up men in the street, and is currently involved with the latest young man. Wylie is superb.
In the first act, nothing much happens. Raquel throws a tantrum and destroys the game of Monopoly. The landlady, Madame Boussiron, Vicky Horwood, turns up to interrupt their revels, and Nancy falls down the stairs. Time passes.
Act Two, and Nancy, in a moon boot, is being cared for by Anna, who has years of experience in invalid-minding. But something sweet is developing. The nascent relationship between Anna and Charlot, a friendship with romantic overtones, sees her opening emotionally, and LeCornu has a beautiful speech at the start of the act. Charlot, by the way, is the ever-dependable Peter Davies, saddled with an uncomfortable approximation of the sound a working-class Frenchman might make speaking English. The landlady returns. The women are evicted for having too much fun.
Their lives resolve. There is humour, and tenderness, and female friendship. Old age does not mean the impossibility of change and new beginnings.
Jill Hyem’s biography as a writer for television and radio, including Tenko, and the House of Elliott, is impressive, and she worked hard to promote dramas about women. It will appeal to an audience of women of that generation, and to anyone who enjoys some fine acting. My one gripe is that the plumber is called Charlot, which is what the French have always called Charlie Chaplin. Fame by association.
That this sweet work is on the stage that only a week ago saw the last performances of the Therry Dramatic Society’s Hello Girls, is a reminder of the importance of the ARTS Theatre to Adelaide.