Dead Posh’s production immediately struck on a winning note before the play had even begun, endearing themselves to hungry reviewers by providing Tunnocks teacakes and plastic cups of Tetleys. This meticulous attention to detail was for me the best aspect of the production; yet it was a case of style over substance, as I found the characters universally a little soulless.
Laura and Alec are far from the most interesting star-crossed lovers in theatre; lacking the youth, verve or violence of Romeo and Juliet; plus the stilted dialogue and classically British repressed sexuality are famously easy to parody. Yet the actors playing the leads managed to convey even less life than the script gives. The title ended up being depressingly apt; there were points where I would have preferred to watch a bowl of fruit, rather than two actors struggling to meet each others’ eyes. Noel Coward got round the problem of having two astonishingly wet leads by having more lively peripheral characters; played right, one outraged squawk from Myrtle Bagot the refreshment lady, as her beau Albert the stationmaster pinches her bottom, can bring the house down. This was not quite the result, Myrtle’s chiding coming across as the resigned chiding of an old married wife; even the less tortured lovers in ‘Still Life’ couldn’t quite shake off the Madame Tussauds waxwork impression.
However, it cannot be ignored that the production was aesthetically stunning. If as much time had been spent on Laura’s characterisation (instead of her floral tea dresses and victory rolls) she would have elicited more of the sympathy necessary for the pathos of her character. The world of the station refreshment room was entirely complete and very convincing, from the Bath buns on the counter to the flowers on the table; frankly, the artistic director should have taken a bow at the curtain call along with the cast.