We’ll Always Have Paris

The Mill at Sonning is a quaint venue that provides all the amenities for a great theatre trip. However, Jill Hyem’s’ We’ll Always Have Paris is a lengthy and dull play that doesn't rise to the occasion.

Lengthy and dull

Directed by Sally Hughes, We’ll Always Have Paris follows three retired school friends from England, Nancy (Elizabeth Elvin), Racquel (Debbie Arnold) and Anna (Natalie Ogle) as they eat, pray, love their way through Paris in an attempt to transform themselves and live life to the fullest. It’s a play with very little structure, but contains moments of genuine, dry humour. As the script stands, there just isn't enough time to develop the plot properly. The show attempts to do too much, with a lot of focus on unimprotant aspects of the show, which means that it just doesn't have the time to develop the fundamentals that are plot, character and relationships. Dialogue and backstory are shoehorned in quickly in order to give context and motivation, but because of this, it doesn't feel natural or believable. The play’s progression does not make sense, and the weakness of the script and character development means that We’ll Always Have Paris becomes quite slapshod.

The action takes place entirely in an apartment in Saint-Germain, and Michael Holt’s set design creates a cozy backdrop to the action onstage. It’s almost as if we are looking through the 4th wall in rose tinted glasses. There is a romanticism to Holt’s design, an escapism that it provides, and in doing so, he creates the perfect apartment that anyone would give their right hand to own.

The performances by the cast are fine; they are let down by a script that doesn’t quite accomplish what it sets out to do. The show is written with an English attitude and point of view, which is stating the obvious, but it comes across quite jarringly and makes the characters appear quite self-absorbed to the point where we can’t help but wonder whether Madame Bouissiron (Basienka Blake) may be right. Blake is by the most interesting presence onstage, and although she only appears twice, she certainly makes an impression. An imposing and disapproving figure, and the way that the characters talk about her she might as well be the Boogie Man, but in hindsight, may actually be the only likeable and sympathetic character in the show.

We’ll Always Have Paris fits in with the overall aesthetic of the venue. there’s good food and if you’re lucky enough, good company, but with this play the hearty meal easily becomes a sedative.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Ah, Paris! The rooftops, the organ grinders' music, The Frenchmen with a penchant for ‘English ladies’.

Three women of a certain age gravitate to Paris. There’s Nancy, a retired Headmistress determined to throw off her shackles; Anna, recently widowed - and free - after years of nursing a sick husband; and Raquel, a divorcee in search of eternal youth and a new toy boy. Add to the mix Charlot, an actor turned handyman who eventually fixes more than just a leaky shower and Madam Boussiron, the archetypal dragon of landladies.

Penned by the wonderful Jill Hyem - writer of the tv series Tenko, Howard’s Way, Wish Me Luck, The House of Elliot -We'll Always Have Paris is a feel-good play with laughter and tears. The promise of romance. Lovely love and not-so-lovely anger. Friendship and loyalty. And the advantages of growing old. Perhaps not La Vie en Rose, but certainly a night to leave you charmed, amused, thoughtful - and most definitely smiling. Not to be missed!

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