Review by Barry Hill
Not even the wrath of the elements could dampen the enthusiasm and warmth of the Adelaide Repertory Theatre’s latest production, We’ll Always Have Paris!
Written by Jill Hyem and set in a sixth-floor apartment in Paris, the play tells the story of three friends, all from different backgrounds and all wanting to escape England and ‘live’. There’s Nancy, a retired headmistress determined to leave the humdrum of village life behind her; Anna, recently widowed – and free – after years of nursing a dying husband; and Raquel, a divorcee in search of eternal youth and a new toy boy.
Add to the mix Charlot, an actor turned handyman who eventually fixes more than just a leaky shower and Madam Boussiron, the archetypal dragon of landladies, and you have a ‘heart-warming’ two hours of theatre that has you leaving the theatre with an inner glow.
Director Norm Caddick has made full use of set designer Brittany Daw’s spacious Parisian apartment. The use of the kitchen area is particularly effective. Caddick gives the play the appropriate ebb and flow of pace as the story develops and ensures that the characters are fully rounded.
Deb Walsh’s Nancy is the glue that holds the play together. Highlights of her performance include the running gags of English/French idioms with Charlot and her hysterical attempts at the lotus position while wearing a moonboot, which have to be seen to be believed.
Lindy LeCornu’s Anna’s development from a timid mouse of a person to a confident independent woman is a wonderful piece of acting. Her scenes with Charlot provide the tender moments of the production and a surprise resolution.
Peter Davies’ Charlot is the ultimate lovable rogue. His presence pervades the play and is totally believable. He has a real chemistry with Nancy and Anna and, like the other characters, a secret that is revealed.
Sue Wylie’s Raquel is quintessential cougar with killer shoes! Her recount of her five marriages should be required listening for any marriage guidance counsellor. Her transitional scene in the second act is superbly handled and costumed.
Vicky Horwood’s Madam Boussiron is brusqueness personified, with a perfect French accent, a stylish wardrobe and a secret that is not discovered until act two.
While the play contains many humorous moments, the French Monopoly scene and the ‘sex’ talk at the table are hysterical.
A special mention needs to be made of the music for the play. Naturally there are the French classics ranging from Edith Piaf’s ‘Padam, Padam’ to the iconic piano accordion we identify with Paris. There is also a song for this production composed by Lindsay Dunn.
There were a couple opening night hesitancies, however these were probably caused by the rain on the roof of the theatre, resulting in the actors having to project over the loud distraction.
We’ll Always Have Paris is the ultimate feel-good play. It is refreshing to see a play that features three women of a ‘certain age’ as the protagonists. It explores friendship, with a touch of romance and of course celebrates everything that is French!