The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. And we take the opportunity to explore
other vintage productions preserved online. Until things return to
normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
La La - Keep An Eye On Amélie
BBC and YouTube February 2022
A charming and amusing little bauble of a play, this 1973 television adaptation of a classic Feydeau farce is funny, features some stylish performances (including one that might surprise you) and doesn't outstay its welcome.
Adaptors Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin cut a full-length play down to one hour, but since mounting hysteria is essential to a face, condensation and speed can only make it even more enjoyable.
Man-about-town Marcel needs to
marry to get an inheritance, so he enlists his friend's mistress Amélie to pose as his fiancée. This satisfies the comic-Dutch
godfather who controls the money, but upsets both the friend and
Marcel's own mistress while just confusing Amélie's father.
then the Dutchman insists on witnessing the actual wedding, the friend
plots revenge, and an amorous Russian prince woos the
not-totally-unwilling Amélie with rich gifts.
what we have here is actually closer to the English model of farce than
the French, as a simple lie leads to complication piled on complication.
the central role of Marcel, Patrick Cargill plays a man who begins with
a simple plan and then goes through surprise, consternation and panic as
things spin beyond his control.
master of underplaying in the Noel Coward mode, Cargill gets more comedy
out of a raised eyebrow, a moment of speechless shock or a wry aside to
the camera than others might from pratfalls and extreme double-takes.
the real delight among the performances is (not-yet-Dame) Judi Dench's
In her late thirties at the time, Dench fully captures the essentially
innocent sexiness of a 20-something good time girl for whom all of life,
including any troublesome questions of morality or propriety, is just an
a plot turn has Amélie literally hiding under a bed as Marcel
tries to resist his amorous mistress above her, Dench pops her head out
from time to time with the mild annoyance one might feel toward noisy
when the officious but jewellery-offering Russian keeps interrupting
things, Dench doesn't hide Amélie's acquisitive side while still keeping
A supporting cast of solid character actors, notably Bill Fraser as the father and Thorley Walters as the Russian, contribute to keeping this fragile soap bubble of a play afloat, making for a thoroughly enjoyable hour.
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