While The Sun Shines
Orange Tree Theatre Summer 2019
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
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.
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 to Mabel.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 1943.
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