Review Round-up: Was there a Chorus of Disapproval for Ayckbourn's play?
A Chorus of Disapproval tells the story of the Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society, whose production of The Beggar’s Opera is going off the rails, until handsome but shy widower Guy (Harman) joins the group. Classic songs fill the air as the drama on stage is mirrored by the romantic rivalry and small town squabbles causing a stir in the wings of this ambitious local show.
Produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Robert G. Bartner & Norman Tulchin and Adam Kenwright, A Chorus of Disapproval is booking until 5 January 2013.
One of Alan Ayckbourn’s finest plays…falls slightly flat in Trevor Nunn’s revival starring Rob Brydon. Nothing much wrong with Brydon…but the dynamics of his relationship with the new “Macheath,” the bereaved office worker Guy Jones of Nigel Harman, are not quite right…Ashley Jensen is more tentative than sexually and socially distraught…But there are no complaints about Robert Jones’ brilliant, detailed realistic design, which flows smoothly…The best supporting performances are those of Matthew Cottle…and Georgia Brown…Ayckbourn’s original production…helped me enjoy The Beggar’s Opera more than I usually do. That’s not the case here, where the singing is tepid and perfunctory and the “amateurism” of the performance not confined to clumsy physical movement.
…Nunn’s production often lacks the required vim and lightness of touch…Nevertheless there are some standout performances. Rob Brydon is both funny and touching…also poignant when he describes his troubled marriage...Nigel Harman is also in fine form as the play’s unlikely lothario, Guy…Harman superbly captures the character’s hand-wringing diffidence and glassy smile of embarrassment…Stereotyped though her role is, Daisy Beaumont also shines as the predatorily sexual Fay who hosts “swingers” parties with her vile husband. The wires-crossed conversation in which she talks about sex, and Harman thinks she is talking about food is classic Ayckbourn – and by some distance the funniest moment in the show.
…Trevor Nunn's erratically cast and uncharacteristically awkward production…Some of the casting is also odd. Nigel Harman plays Guy as a total nonentity rather than an overenthusiastic north-country Candide…Fortunately, Rob Brydon holds the show together as the cuckolded director, Dafydd. He has exactly the right mix of earnestness, bossiness and twilit Celtic gloom…There is also vigorously good support from Georgia Brown…Barrie Rutter…and Susan Tracy. But although Nunn's production gets full value out of classic Ayckbourn scenes…something is missing. I think it's any sense that we are being offered a richly Gogolian portrait of the greed, corruption and vanity of English provincial life: something hard to achieve in a West End theatre with a totally ad hoc cast.
…this is one of Ayckbourn’s finest…Nunn has a perfect central pivot in Rob Brydon as Dafydd ap Llewellyn…Brydon, at this point, is little short of magnificent. The laughs keep coming, a richness of jokes…There are plenty of stage in-jokes, but there’s exuberant incidental comedy too. Barrie Rutter gives Ayckbourn’s brilliantly offensive Tykey Yorkshire git all he has, Georgia Brown snarls gorgeously as the savage stage manager, and Daisy Beaumont as Fay vamps for England…Character is allowed to deepen, the pains of failed love and the humiliations of working life acknowledged. Ashley Jensen is a delicately bruiseable Hannah, Harman a knock-kneed ingenue with his head dangerously turned…Yet it is poor Dafydd’s show itself…which alleviates the pain of real life. Just as this production does, for 150 very happy minutes.
Rob Brydon, making his West End debut, is tremendous in this revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s Eighties comedy. He gives a beautifully judged performance…Daisy Beaumont impresses as a fierce seductress, and Ashley Jensen as Dafydd’s wife is her exact opposite, a woman who has been taught to think she is not attractive yet discovers that she can be. There’s neat support from Georgia Brown, Rob Compton and Paul Thornley, as well as an excellent design by Robert Jones. Still, this isn’t quite the riotous comedy that’s advertised…There are moments that feel bleak and toe-curling. That’s as it should be, but at times a certain zip and energy are missing. Trevor Nunn’s production needs to become more taut and vigorous…It’s safe and solid; the laughs don’t flow as freely as they could.