A Tough Act to Follow
Theatre review by Henry Ascoli
Ding Dong, by Lion & Unicorn Players, Petersfield Festival Hall.
From the chest-beating antics of Beowulf to a wonderfully complex French farce, Lion & Unicorn returned to the stage with renewed vigour and a fresh focus this autumn.
‘Ding Dong’, based on Marc Camoletti’s Sexe et Jalousie, adapted for the English stage by Tudor Gates, is certainly bold choice for any amateur group to bring to the stage, its many intricacies and complexities demanding great attention.
Yet a strong cast and careful choreography combined in this fast-paced performance, which had the audience hanging on every word.
Businessman Bernard Marcellin discovers that his wife is having an affair and promptly proposes a return of the favour with her lover’s wife, threatening a far greater punishment should he not agree to the terms.
An awkward evening of mistaken identity, misunderstandings and mishaps ensues, including a call girl, a confused maid and two bedraggled husbands…
Ben Gander delivered a breathless performance as the boisterous Bernard Marcellin, grappling with lengthy dialogue while portraying his character’s desperate actions to exact revenge on his wife’s lover. Shades of Basil Fawlty.
Ryan Watts grew into the role of the deceitful Robert Regnier, whose hapless attempts to double-cross Bernard leaves him ever deeper in the mire.
Kat Wootton proved assured as the elegant yet evasive Jacqueline Marcellin, Bernard’s wife, who finds herself at the very centre of the chaos as the evening descends ever deeper into farcical territory.
Natasha Gwilliam excelled in a vibrant performance as the vivacious and lusty Katalina the call girl, while Emily Rees portrayed Robert’s enraged wife Juliette, fighting her anger as she decides how to deal with her disloyal husband.
But save a mention for Stephanie Taylor, who mastered the role of the moody yet mistreated maid Marie-Louise, becomes ever more confused as the bizarre state of affairs unfolds before her very eyes.
Depicting an elegant French apartment, every inch of the set was utilised to its full potential, the chaise longue receiving particular attention as romance and desire rule proceedings.
Director Eric Parker and his production team merit acclaim for succeeding with such a challenging show.
A tough act to follow.
Lion & Unicorn Players, lionandunicornplayers.co.uk