REVIEW: PARLOUR SONG Almeida Theatre

PUBLISHED: 14:07 16 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:06 07 September 2010

Four star rating Ned, his wife Joy and their neighbours Dale and Lyn live in a suburban housing estate only six feet apart, in identical houses, except that each is a mirror image of the other. To go to the kitchen in Ned s house you turn right. If you tu

Four star rating

Ned, his wife Joy and their neighbours Dale and Lyn live in a suburban housing estate only six feet apart, in identical houses, except that each is a mirror image of the other. To go to the kitchen in Ned's house you turn right. If you turn right in Dale's home you end up in the lavatory.

They live seemingly ordered lives, but beneath the order there is chaos, especially in the mind of Ned, who is a demolition expert and somehow his life seems to be taking a cue from his profession.

"Everything is disappearing," he says. His things have gone missing, small things like his gold cufflinks and his watch, big things like a soapstone birdbath and a lawn mower. He suspects maybe his wife is taking them in preparation for her own departure.

The story is told in a chatty, narrative style by Dale, alternating with short scenes between the characters. The dialogue is sophisticated, witty and slightly unreal as if written by a latter day Oscar Wilde and although the comedy is infectious, there is an underlying sadness and feeling of menace. The essence of Ned's problems is a dream that he fears so much that he keeps himself awake night after night, not allowing himself to sleep and his whole life is becoming a nightmare.

Toby Jones is perfectly cast as Ned. His very ordinary appearance along with Jeremy Herbert's quasi-realistic setting enhances the strangeness of the man's mind, and in addition, he is allowed moments of pure physical comedy. One of the funniest scenes is one of Jones and Andrew Lincoln as Dale doing their keep fit routine in unison while Ned delivers the story of the most romantic episode of his married life.

There is a wonderful equality and rapport between him and Amanda Drew as his bored sardonic wife, Joy. She has a plethora of comedy lines and a special delivery all her own. Lyn, wife of Dale is a mysterious character who is talked about but never appears.

An unusually entertaining play directed with flair by Ian Rickson.

Until May 9

Aline Waites

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