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. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Stream Theatre Autumn 2020
A welcome addition to the
growing body of a new art form, Zoom Theatre, this salute to Noel Coward
has about twenty performers, mainly British, offering entertaining
excerpts from Coward's writings, for the most part in solo spots in front
of their computers.
Produced by the online
company Stream Theatre, it is a fundraiser on behalf of charities for the
theatre community's suddenly-unemployed.
Unlike the similar Sondheim
tribute also available online, the emphasis here is on Coward's poetry and
memoirs rather than songs.
Derek Jacobi offers a
spirited and engaging reading of 'I Can Remember,' Coward's poetic reverie
on his days as a child actor, Emma Thompson wickedly underplays the satire
of trendy psychoanalysis in 'Mrs Mallory,' and Kristine Nielsen lets all
the stops out in Coward's bitter demolition of a gossip columnist in 'The
Lady At The Party.'
Stephen Fry introduces the
just-under-an-hour program, makes the first charity appeal, and then
returns later to revel in all the fun of Coward's salute to a jolly widow,
'A Bar In The Piccola Marina,' zipping through it in a way that reminds us
of Coward's debt to Gilbert and Sullivan.
Robert Lindsay pops up from
time to time to deliver with admirable dryness one or another of Coward's
witticisms and one-liners, and the visuals are repeatedly punctuated with
snapshots of Coward at play.
Some of the other recitations
are marred a bit by our seeing the performers' eyes darting nervously
toward the scripts or cue cards just off camera, and although Judi Dench
features prominently in the cast list, she is limited to a brief charity
The musical offerings are
uneven. Bebe Neuwirth's 'Why Do The Wrong People Travel' is a bit too
languid and Giles Terera's a capella 'If Love Were All' too sterile.
But the best is left for last
as Patricia Routledge jollies her way through an infectiously happy
celebration of the idle rich at their naughtiest ('people's behaviour away
from Belgravia') in an hour-capping 'I Went To A Marvellous Party.'
Well worth an hour of your time, and well worth a donation to a good cause.
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