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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Under The Blue Sky
Duke of York's Theatre      Summer-Autumn 2008

Oddly billed as a comedy, David Eldridge's play has a handful of laughs, but is primarily a rueful look at the difficulty of male-female relationships.

Even on that level it doesn't have a whole lot that's new to tell us and, the undoubted pleasure of watching some talented actors aside, it may strike you as Not Much Ado About Not Much.

In three unconnected scenes we see three pairs of non-romantic buddies at the moment that they discover that their safe and comfortable relationship isn't working.

(Minimal continuity is created by making them all teachers and acquaintances, so they each mention the others in passing.)

In one pair one is happy enough bumbling along until the other declares passionate love. In another, two seriously screwed-up people discover that their relationship is even sicker than they are individually. In the third and sweetest, a couple almost miss their one chance to face and declare their real feelings.

The play was a hit at the Royal Court's studio theatre a few years back, where the intimate setting may have contributed to the sense that these small stories had a touching reality.

Now, though, a larger stage, a greater distance from the audience and, I suspect, Anna Mackmin's somewhat broader direction just make the stories and characters seem smaller and less interesting.

Chris O'Dowd does the amiably befuddled shtick familiar to his television fans in the first scene, leaving Lisa Dillon little to bounce off as she has to get more and more hysterical.

The second scene is carried by the vulgar energy of Catherine Tate's comic performance as the faculty slut, though Dominic Rowan barely registers as her creepy adversary.

Francesca Annis and Nigel Lindsay wisely underplay the last couple, not making too much out of the Alan Bennett-ish small story and thus letting its quiet warmth come through.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Under The Blue Sky - Duke Of York's Theatre 2008
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