2-5 July 2014
Reviewed by Cathy Porteus
Tonight at 8.30 is a series of short plays by Noel Coward. On the opening night at the Lowry’s Quay Theatre, the three plays were Ways and Means, Fumed Oak and Still Life.
My favourite of the trio was Ways and Means. Set in the bedroom of a French Villa, Stella and Toby have found themselves on their uppers and running out of options to exit without losing face with their society friends. Toby’s gambling and Stella’s appalling bridge play have left the couple with just a few francs to their names. They can’t even afford to tip the servants and settle up the bill after over staying at an acquaintance’s villa. They try various options to raise funds but attempts to call in loans, pawn valuables and recoup their gambling losses are to no avail. An unexpected visitor provides a fortuitous way of repairing their finances, if they are brave enough.
I enjoyed Ways and Means, it was funny and witty plus it had a happy ending, which is always a nice touch. Kirsty Besterman and Gyuri Sarossi made a believable pair of upper class spendthrifts and the other cast members, who wandered in and out of their bedroom, were funny and seemed well cast.
The second play Fumed Oak was quite a contrast, both in tone and believability of the characters. Grim from the start, three generations of women have made Henry’s life dull and uncomfortable for many years. One night, the worm turns and Henry snaps with dramatic consequences. I felt the characters were rather one dimensional, perhaps reflecting Coward’s view of Northern working class households. I was quite glad when this drama ended, particularly as I found the put on accents a little irritating and false.
After a short break, the third play was Still Life. At first I thought the similarities to Brief Encounter were coincidental but as the story unfolded it was clear that they were one and the same, e.g. Coward took this short play and later adapted it into the script for the famous film. The train station provides a handy setting for characters to meet up and develop relationships. I didn’t quite believe the love affair between Alec and Laura on this performance. Shereen Martin’s portrayal of woman in love Laura didn’t ring true meaning the angst ridden parting didn’t feel as tragic as perhaps it should. Still it was an interesting play to watch and it was nice to see all the cast having a part to play as characters who visited and worked in the station buffet.
On the whole, it was an interesting selection of stories to watch but the period settings and accents sometimes felt rather stilted and lacking in contemporary appeal. Perhaps a more modern reworking of one of the three would have given the evening some fresh impetus rather than sticking to Coward’s original version.
Wed 2 July, 8pm – Fumed Oak, Ways and Means and Still Life
Thu 3 July, 2.30pm – Family Album, Hands Across the Sea and Shadow Play
Thu 3 July, 8pm – We Were Dancing. The Astonished Heart and The Red Peppers
Fri 4 July, 8pm – Fumed Oak, Ways and Means and Still Life
Sat 5 July, 12.30pm – We Were Dancing, The Astonished Heart and The Red Peppers
Sat 5 July, 4pm – Fumed Oak, Ways and Means and Still Life
Sat 6 July, 8pm – Family Album, Hands Across the Sea and Shadow Play
Tickets cost £21 (includes £2 booking fee).
Tonight at 8.30 is at The Lowry until 5 July. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000