The Hart Players theatre company brings Noël Coward’s Still Life to the Fringe. The company did justice to a thoroughly entertaining play. An accidental meeting leads to love between Laura Jesson, a housewife, and Alec Harvey, a doctor who Coward himself originally played. The tension between moral propriety and passionate love unfolds, until the lover’s part for the sake of practicality. Coward satirises such “decency” by initiating all characters in apparently degrading relationships, as they wilfully take “liberties”.
The company did justice to a thoroughly entertaining play.
These secret meetings take place in the presence of multiple station staff, immersed in romances of their own. “Saucy” Stanley and bad Beryl never failed to make the audience laugh, as Myrtle Bagot ordered them about and the cheeky, light-hearted Albert Godby popped in and out. The plight of the lovers was playfully subverted as Bagot flicked through Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Beryl munched away on a Mars bar, having wiped down the table with the same tissue she blew her nose on.
The pair were at times a little quiet, especially when compared to the energy and resonance of, say, Godby. Equally, Dolly (played by the same actor as Beryl) was hard to hear as she gossiped away about an adulterous disgrace. This play was an enjoyable watch, but there are better Coward plays are out there – look no further than the Old Vic’s Present Laughter. Yet of course, the two aren’t exactly on equal playing fields. Nonetheless, Still Life rarely emerges onstage, so if Hart Theatre return to the Fringe, this is a production to see.