The Sun Shines
Orange Tree Theatre Summer 2019; Winter 2021
thoroughly delightful wartime rom-com is the 1943 equivalent of a
modern-day date movie, except that it is actually very warm, funny and
And Paul Miller's production
hits and sustains exactly the right tone of emotional lightness that
assures us from the start that whatever complications ensue (and there
will be many), all will turn out well in the end.
Rich young nobleman and
ordinary seaman Bobby is to marry WAC Lady Elizabeth, much to the delight
of her spendthrift father.
On the eve of the wedding
Bobby befriends American airman Joe and not only offers him the use of his
flat while the couple are on honeymoon but sets him up with his old
girlfriend, the happy-to-share-her-favours Mabel. Meanwhile Elizabeth has
met French officer Colbert and offered him the flat as well.
The real fun begins when Joe
mistakes Elizabeth for Mabel and makes his move on her, effectively enough
to shake her commitment to Bobby. And when he learns her actual identity,
Joe decides he's in love with Elizabeth, at the same time that Colbert
also declares his love.
Things become so upside-down
that the American and Frenchman find themselves seizing the moral high
ground and resenting Bobby for asserting his prior claim while Bobby,
determined to marry someone, is a bit startled to find himself proposing
A few plot twists later it
takes clear-headed Mabel to sort things out so that everyone who deserves
a happy ending gets one.
With the characters all
written as a blend of realism and comic stereotype, right down to the
unflappable butler, director Paul Miller sensitively guides his cast
through the tightrope walk that hints at both silliness and some emotional
depth without falling too far on either side.
Philip Labey's Bobby is an
amiable if slightly dimwitted sort who can't work up too much passion or
outrage whatever happens. Julian Moore-Cook plays Joe as a 1940s English
audience's image of an American, a little too big and loud for any room
he's in but essentially innocent and well-meaning, and never unattractive.
Sabrina Bartlett's Elizabeth
is a gentle parody of the virginal English rose, but she gets a genteelly
drunk scene that is a comic high point of the play. And Dorothea
Myer-Bennett's good-hearted good-time girl hovers around the edges of the
action like a benign fairy godmother with at least half an eye to her own
financial and romantic best interests.
This is a wartime play that,
beyond slightly ominous title and the uniforms half the cast wear, barely
acknowledges the war at all, which may have been part of its attraction in
It is set firmly in rom-com
land, that enchanted realm where coincidences and confusions are equally
rife, people fall in and out of love with striking alacrity, there is a
limit to how bad things can ever really get, and a happy ending – at least
for those we want to have a happy ending – is assured.
It is, in short, an ideal entertainment for a summer evening, and this sparkling Orange Tree production does it full and happy justice.
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Review - While The Sun Shines - Orange Tree Theatre 2019