16 February 2012

Muswell Hill at the Orange Tree

Muswell Hill is so funny at times that at one point the action had to pause momentarily to allow a member of the audience to recover from a particularly violent and loud fit of laughter.

But lets go back to the beginning.

I got their early enough to get my preferred position on the front bench opposite the entrance. For some reason all the other occupants appeared to be doctors, including one I know.

From my usual seat I took my usual photo of the stage taken at a jaunty angle. I was looking in to the jaws of a kitchen and that is where all the action takes place.

What we witness is a dinner party, and it's something of a car crash.

The guests arrive one at a time allowing us to be introduced to each of them in turn. They are all odd, if not quite weird, in some way and the cause for this is often buried in their histories.

And that's how the story progresses.

We meet more people (I will not give any games away by saying how many they are or why they are there) and we learn more about them.

Some of this is genuinely surprising and shocking, both in a funny way and a dramatic way.

The characters move in and out of the kitchen and we have a series of short interplays between two or three of them.

A lot of this is seriously funny and, again, I do not want to give anything away but the singing scene and the Shakespearean quotes scene are two of the many gems.

There are darker moments too. These are usually dug up from the past but there are present day tensions too, mostly of a kind that tends to be called relationship problems. Some of the old scars are much worse than that.

In the background to these personal dramas we get newsflashes about the earthquake in Haiti. Little is made of this by the party guests but it sits there as a constant reminder that things could be worse.

The actors are excellent, but you knew that as they always are.

If I had to pick fault with the play it would be with the production that makes little of the Orange Trees unique layout and with the cumbersome set that may be a little too big for the stage.

All that does though is knock a five star performance down to four and three quarters.

Muswell Hill is a violently funny play that also manages to shock you with some black moments and that makes for a hugely satisfying evening.

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