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Haymarket - April in Paris

19th September to 4th October 2003.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Sparkling start to French connection

April in Paris at The Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, from Friday, September 19

The Haymarket's season of plays with a French flavour got off to a sparkling start with this John Godber play, directed by Alasdair Ramsay.

Working class, middle-aged couple, Al (Andy Williams) and Bet (Kate Doherty), have led a sheltered existence, until Bet wins a competition prize of a holiday in Paris.

With Al unemployed, they have little cash and the couple initially constantly bicker and carp at each other.

This two-hander kept its energy throughout a play, engaging the attention of a hugely appreciative full house on opening night.

Word perfect, they made the kitchen-sink squabbles sound perfectly natural, with excellent comic timing and voice projection clearly audible at the back of the circle seats.

Their Yorkshire accents were credible, without being over-the-top, and effortlessly smooth.

Scenery was minimal, a backdrop of cream slats, used ingeniously with flashing green and red back lighting to depict the Moulin Rouge, while the Channel boat trip was suggested by the merest touches, a lifebelt hung on a wall, two sand-covered chairs and seagull noises, leaving the rest to the imagination.

Bet's soliloquy on Al's eating habits and Al's on her dancing were particularly well executed, being both comical and revealing about the characters.

Godber's great comic one-liners were delivered to brilliant effect including Bet's "I've not danced like this for years" and, after a pause, Al's retort "No-body has!" which received a huge laugh.

Escapades included Bet's heaving overboard on a heaving deck and Al forced to eat Steak Tartare (raw mince with raw egg in the middle), after Bet mistakenly orders it instead of steak.

Amazement at the Mona Lisa, views of cafés, water fountains and from the Eiffel Tower, with Paris "Laid out like a jigsaw," provide a convincing trip of the imagination and the couple's French fling resurrects their marriage, as they return mellow and relaxed.

An excellent two hours of popular theatre.

JANE MEREDITH

There is another review at www.reviewsgate.com ("a piece that has real affection and acute observation").