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Jenny Lloyd Jones and David Morley are 'stunning in London Suite

Jenny Lloyd Jones and David Morley are ‘stunning in London Suite

Neil Simon’s ‘London Suite’ at The Stables is ‘funny and compelling’

The playwright Neil Simon was 90 years old this month, so the clever programme planners at The Stables are marking his birthday with a revival of his 1995 play London Suite. Toby Sargent was at the first night.

Neil Simon is a giant of American theatre, with more Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. While he may not enjoy the broadsheet critical acclaim of his more serious minded contemporaries – Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee or Arthur Miller, to name but three – he certainly has a solid body of work that has been selling tickets and drawing in the crowds for nearly half a century.

Pauline McLaughlin and Kim Howell in 'Going Home'

Pauline McLaughlin and Kim Howell in ‘Going Home’

London Suite uses the device of having four different playlets all set in the same hotel room at different times. It provides a continuity of setting but little else, as the room itself is not integral to the action and the individual mini-plays are not connected with one another.

So it all comes down to the performances and the scripts to decide whether the whole thing works.

As far as the latter goes, I can’t say that the scripts have especially stood the test of time lacking, for me at least, enough depth in two of the four to draw one completely in. The individual performances – from the theatre’s rich seam of non-professional actors – though, are something else entirely.

David Ames and Ian Saxton in 'Settling Accounts'

David Ames and Ian Saxton in ‘Settling Accounts’

Word-perfect and confident throughout, the cast once again delighted the first night audience, with great comic timing and flair.

Poignant and genuinely touching

For me at least, the best of the four playlets was Diana and Sidney, a poignant and genuinely touching piece about a middle-aged couple who have divorced and come together again briefly in the most ghastly of circumstances. Jenny Lloyd-Jones as Diana is a matchless study of airy confidence and success that has become undermined by the growing realisation that past decisions now define her destiny; while David Morley as Sidney brings gravity and levity in equal measure to a part that calls for the most delicate of nuance.

In terms of pure comedic talent, however, we need look no further than Kim Howell as Lauren in Going Home who plays, alongside the excellent Pauline McLaughlin, an American daughter and mother on a shopping expedition to London. The trip turns into an unexpected date for the mother, offering an opportunity for the familiar child-reproaching-parent routine that is a feature in so much comedy. Here, however, Kim’s delightful mockery of Pauline has real affection and undoubted star quality.

Physical comedy

The other two playlets – Settling Accounts and The Man on the Floor – are less successful, with the writing showing signs of age. David Ames and Ian Saxton in the former are assured and well-judged but the scenario is weak and Simon’s script a little too trite for current taste, I felt. The Man on the Floor closes the show and is little more than an exercise in physical comedy to no particular comic purpose. The actors do their best, but there just isn’t enough there to let us see what they can do.

But don’t be put off. The evening as a whole is very good indeed and definitely worth the modest ticket price. The performances are funny and compelling, and that’s not something you find on the stage every day. So if you haven’t yet visited the Stables, this is a great show to start with.

London Suite by Neil Simon is at The Stables Theatre until 29 July. The box office is open Monday-Friday, 10.30-13.00 and 18.00-20-00. Telephone 01424 423221

Posted 14:26 Monday, Jul 24, 2017 In: Performance


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