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April in Paris (Leeds)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Hull Truck's production of April in Paris, starring Coronation Streets’ Wendi Peters and Rob Angell is currently running at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and will tour at various theatres across the region throughout 2011. Originally written in 1992 and performed in 1994 by John Godber and his wife, Godber steps away from the stage to direct this Olivier Award nominated comedy.

Set in the rainy days of recession and redundancies, the plot is as gloomily relevant today as it was in the early nineties. Al has worked all his life as a builder, and after being made redundant in his late 50’s, he spends much of his time alone in his shed exploring his new hobby, painting. His wife Bet works part time in a shoe shop and absorbs herself in reading glossy magazines and constantly entering competitions. After 25 years of marriage any patience or affection towards one another has long ceased, and they spend much of their time bickering and desperately searching for things to talk about; resulting in a biting dialogue that creates laugh out loud humour with sombre undertones. Their lives seem bleak, the set is gray, their clothes are gray and even the Tomato Sauce bottle fails to inject any colour.

The play takes a turn when Bet wins one of her fated competitions, nothing too grand, just one night in Paris with an all inclusive ferry crossing, but certainly enough to give their relationship a reinjection of compassion. As the curtain rises for the second half, the stage is transformed with a glittering and impressive set that would not look out of place on the West End. This none too subtle signal of changes to come is the beginning of what turns out to be a truly charming and heart warming comedy.

The bickering and insults continue but they begin to become endearing. The ever cautious Al, infatuated by the sounds and smells of the City of Love, begins to let his guard down, resulting in a rumpus scene in which he cautiously eats a steak tartar, leaving the audience in uproar.

The acting is undertaken with technical precision and Pip Leckenby is masterful in her set design. April in Paris is not going to set the theatre world alight, however it is a charmingingly simple and well constructed piece of comedy which does not fail to inspirit and captive it’s audiences.


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