Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Angela Unbound

William Whitehurst
Second Skin Theatre
Leicester Square Theatre
(2010)

Production photo

A French translator fights off the seductive attentions of former Texas cowgirl in a fancy Paris hotel as he waits for the hard-bitten American author he wants permission to translate to come out of the bathroom. When he does emerge, in his silk dressing gown, wielding a toilet plunger and quaffing from a patient's urinal, we are tipped into a manic comedy that would not been out of place as the comic strand of a programme at the Grand Guignol.

Author Daniel (Jonathan Hansler), escalatingly frantic in his craziness, has written a hugely successful novel in which the central character Angela is based on his former girlfriend Caroline (nubile Ewa Jaworski), the nymphomaniac naïve Texan who admits she 'did think sodomy was a French perfume.' Now after a year away from him she wants that portrait corrected in a sequel that shows how much she's changed. Daniel just wants her out.

This isn't exactly a subtle piece and if the audience doesn't pick up on its craziness within the first few minutes they could be in for a tough time. The night I saw it they were laughing within minutes, from the moment Caroline stripped down to her chemise, and a hilarious time was had by all.

It is not all rip-roaring farce. Charles Henry Duprey, half French, half American and floundering to find a way of coping with this situation, may be a figure of fun out of the stock repertoire but, as played by Peter Glover, and literally dripping with embarrassment, he also has our sympathy. He is truly touching as he tells his own sad story, even as we laugh at him. Beneath the comedy there is a subtext about how we exploit relationships and manipulate others for those who want to see it but it never obtrudes.

Andy McQuade's production is very simply staged, with just an ornate sofa against the black walls of the theatre. It puts the emphasis and the responsibility entirely on the actors and they do him and the author proud, though there is a moment towards the end of the play when it staggers slightly at what seems like the end before launching into a final spasm. Such concentration works, though it would be interesting to see whether it would lift things even further to have a suitable scenic setting to signal genre and enable what here have to be off-stage aerial leaps to be part of the action.

There is a neat twist to Whitehurst's plot but, though the clues are clearly planted earlier in the play and in retrospect perhaps it seems obvious, but I think it very unlikely if it doesn't take people by surprise so I am certainly not going to reveal it.

Runs Wednesdays - Sundays until 29th August 2010

Reviewer: Howard Loxton