Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ring Round the Moon

It’s not often, these days, that I’m the junior member at any gathering. But yesterday, at Ring Round the Moon, it felt as if I’d reduced the average age of the audience by a few years merely by being part of it. It was like being at an Age Concern AGM, held among the gilded caryatids of the Playhouse. Perhaps the attraction was nostalgia for the time of the play’s setting in 1947 and its description of being a “charming, witty and elegant divertissement” – not the first things you associate with West End productions, but clearly a big draw for a certain section of Home Counties pensioners for whom there is little left to look forward to now that Masonic Balls aren’t what they used to be.

Jean Anouilh’s romantic comedy falls somewhere between Wodehouse and Wilde in a convoluted plot about a working-class beauty being paid to take part in an aristocratic weekend house-party, so as to make a twin brother change his mind about the girl he (thinks he) loves. Other guests have their own bewilderingly intertwined relationships and infidelities, of course, and that means paying close attention to the dialogue and hairdos to have any clue as to why certain scenes are important. I suspect most of the audience was as baffled as me but, all in all, those of us who stayed with it seemed to have enjoyed it by the time the finale’s fireworks crashed round the auditorium.

Best performances were: Angela Thorne – supremely dry as the archly batty Dowager; Joanna David, her downtrodden companion (best line, “I feel so excited – like a little yeasty bun in a good oven”); Peter Eyre the butler with the right mixture of servility and disdain; Belinda Lang’s upwardly mobile stage-mother from Hell and Emily Bruni as Lady India, the deluded, lusting, drama-queen whose faultlessly funny tango-with-dialogue was an absolute highlight.

I’d have preferred it left as a Woosteresque bit of nonsense, myself. But of course.. being legitimate theatre the thing just HAD to have a message – which was: ‘too much money is a Bad Thing and the Upper Classes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be’. Well, who’d have guessed?