A Song at Twilight

Noël Coward
Royal & Derngate, Northampton, and touring

Production photo

A beautifully crafted script that never really delivers the potential it perhaps should have done, perhaps sums up this Noël Coward play currently delighting the masses at Northampton's Royal & Derngate.

Despite the almost Tennessee Williams like situation of floored characters and secrets never revealed, this production of A Song at Twilight lacks the dramatic punch that it really should and could carry.

The cast is well travelled, with Peter Egan playing the lead of Sir Hugo Latymer and Belinda Lang his ex-partner Carlotta Gray. There was nothing particularly wrong with Peter Egan's performance; he will have delighted those who adore his TV characters. Yet he almost replayed these TV characters, without really making the role of Sir Hugo Latymer his own. There was vocal clarity and comic timing, but, for me, a lack of emotional connection with the tragic character.

One wonders where the decisions behind the creations of character came from. Belinda Lang as Carlotta was slightly larger than life, and although it is clear that this connects with her background as an actress, it did feel as though the comedy was being played for rather than embedded into the performance. This particularly impacted on the final scenes, where Carlotta becomes vulnerable in her revelation of pain and regret.

In such a still play (all of the action takes place in one hotel room) it is essential that as an audience member, you have empathy for the character. Whether director Nikolai Foster really achieved this is debatable. As noted, his production did please the middle class, middle aged audience and perhaps this was the aim. Foster obviously has a connection with Coward, with his Hay Fever playing the Chichester Festival this summer.

So, Coward fans may find this an interesting production to catch. However, I have no doubt that the truly die-hard followers will find it difficult to be convinced.

Reviewer: John Johnson

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