31 January 2014

Fallen Angels at the Rose Theatre

My mixed views towards the Rose Theatre took a marked upswing after seeing Fallen Angels which was a pitch-perfect comedy.

It came from the pen of Noël Coward which is always a good start. Not only does he have a high reputation but performances that I have seen of Blithe Spirit and Hay Fever justify that reputation.

The director was Roy Marsden which may not have seemed an obvious choice for those who remember his as the cold Detective Chief-Inspector Adam Dalgliesh but the only time I saw him on stage was in a hilarious Jacobean farce at Richmond Theatre, so he had a comedy heritage too. I recall his often repeated refrain, "Stab me vitals".

The Rose was laid out slightly differently from what I was used to with there being four rows (AA to DD) in the Pit area with a much reduced space at the front for those on cushions. I guess that the Rose thought (rightly) that this was not the sort of play to attract the youngsters who normally use this area so it made sense to put more seating in.

I was in the proper front row (A34) which mean that I had a comfortable view over the heads of those seated below in the Pit.

Fallen Angels was a comedy and morals. The two angels had been happily married for twelve years when they heard from a man who they had both had flings with before they met their husbands. He said that he was coming to London (from Paris) and was hoping to see them.

Most of the play then deals with the angels' anticipation and preparation for the reunion. Both are happily married but both are also tempted by the thought of the excitement of an illicit relationship. There was also some competition between the two and each suspected the other of trying to exclude them from the reunion.

And that's about as far as the plot went. There were the husbands off on their golfing weekend and the new maid who had been everywhere and done everything but the pay was all about the angels as the contemplated and planned their fall.

To work, the pay needed good angels and both Jenny Seagrove and Sara Crowe were fantastic. They made the situation, Coward's words and Marsden's direction all utterly believable and it was the fine attention to detail in the expressions and movements that wrung every ounce of humour out of the script.

Just three examples to show how this worked. There was a step across the room (you can see it in the picture) and when the angels got drunk they tripped on it every time, not in a slapstick way but just enough to show you how drunk they were. The maid only walked in straight lines, like an Etch-a-Sketch, and made violent turns whenever she had to change direction. In a magical moment, one of the angels tells the other not to be melodramatic and does so in the most melodramatic way.

Fallen Angels was very funny, delightful and endearing thanks to the great skill of all involved who made it all seem very casual and natural despite all the hard-work and careful planning involved.

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