Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Chorus of Disapproval at Harold Pinter Theatre, London

Nigel Harman, Rob Brydon and Ashley Jensen.

I'm not a lover of musical theatre. My first experience of it was many years ago in the eighties, when I saw 'Cats' with my sister in London. We both thought we must have missed something when we didn't really think much of it. Everyone else seemed to think it was absolutely the best thing since sliced bread. Over the years I've seen a few shows, just because I've had to, and only enjoyed 'Mamma Mia' because the tunes took me back to my teenage years in Sweden. I'd much rather go and see a serious depressing play by Strindberg (obviously) or Ibsen. If there's any singing to be done on a stage, I'd much rather it was the real thing, opera. I know I'm dull, but there's no accounting for taste.

So, when I heard that the play, A Chorus of Disapproval, we'd booked to see with the Englishman's mother last night was really a musical, my heart sank. The only saving grace was that the production was directed by Trevor Nunn and starred Rob Brydon who I think is really funny.

Photo A Chorus of Disapproval
Of course had I known anything about musical theatre, I would have known that A Chorus of Disapproval is the mother of all musicals (the programmes can be so informative). Written by Allan Ayckbourn, it's a classic piece.

The opening of the play is also the opening night of a small town amateur operatic company's production of The Beggar's Opera. It ends in a triumph, but when the curtain goes down (which is cleverly portrayed by a shadow descending onto the stage), all's not well with the star of the show, played by Nigel Harman, who seems to be shunned by the rest of the company. 

The play then goes back to the beginning of the story and Nigel Harman's audition with the director, Rob Brydon. And I find myself enjoying this first scene. Not only is there some very good singing by both Harman, and (especially) Brydon, but they are both genuinely funny too. 

It's all a lot of nonsense, but it's good, funny and well-played nonsense, which I enjoyed very much. Rob Brydon is excellent as the ambitious director who admits he uses art as an escape from his real life troubles. Ashley Jensen (of Ugly Betty fame) is good as Brydon's unhappy wife who seeks solace with Harman's character. Her singing is a little weak at times, but then she's supposed to be an amateur…The rest of the cast is stellar too, and there are many more comic moments as we get an insight into the complicated (sex/love) lives of the amateur cast.

All in all, I was almost sad when the curtain really fell and the play was over. 

A Chorus of Approval with Rob Brydon
For a limited season up till 5th January 2013
Harold Pinter Theatre
The Haymarket
London SW1Y 4DN


Simone said...

The poster for this caught my eye as I rode up the tube escalator the other evening so I was interested to read review since I am a fan of all three actors, particularly Rob Brydon who I think is hilarious :)

I never knew he could sing!!

I think I may have seen the production years ago but can't remember anything about it! I love a musical (I have to confess) so the fact that you enjoyed it has definitely convinced me to go along to this....thank you :)

Helena Halme said...

Oh, I am glad! I may become a musical lover after this too. ;-0