Review: Tonight at 8

reviews the Drama Barn’s latest offering

Venue: The Drama Barn

Rating:  ★★★★☆

Ladies and gentleman, this week at the drama barn you are certainly in for a treat; not one, but three Noel Coward plays.  This trio, directed by Stephen Hutt and Georgia Leanne Harris, have been selected from a series of ten short one-act plays combined to form a singular night of entertainment, and what a night of entertainment it was; from trivial music hall mayhem to the tragic end of a love affair, ‘Red Peppers’, ‘Shadow Play’ and ‘Still Life’ took me on a roller coaster ride through a startling number of emotions.  Each of the cast members shone in their own right effortlessly recounting line after line of wit and it is difficult to isolate any particular performance as the show as a whole would have been let down in any of their absence, although a few isolated incidents did stand above the others.

Upon noting the name ‘Noel Coward’ an image of the British aristocracy is instantly tonight at 8 evoked; silk dressing gowns, cigarette holders and threateningly fast dialogue.  It was quite a shock then to have the play begin- quite literally- in a burst of song as Edward Riley and Yoshika Colwell pranced onto the stage unmissable in matching, bright red wigs to immediately discern their clownish characters.  The light hearted nature of this sketch was maintained throughout, and despite the appearance of other cast members the antics of Riley and Colwell held the focus unwaveringly.

From here we move into ‘Shadow Play’ which perhaps was in danger of being overlooked due to its middle positioning, however it very much ‘holds its own’ as the most theatrically engaging.  It demonstrated a number of interesting stagecraft techniques using the concept of a ‘shadow play’ to rekindle the lost romance of the Godfrey’s.  Here the costuming of particularly the female characters was beautiful, matched only by the mesmerizing melodies carried by Stratford and Williams.  Mr James Elser must also have a mention for his brief, yet oh so memorable appearance as the overbearing suitor that Stratford so easily dismisses.  Yet, the star pairing of the show was yet to come and revealed in ‘Still Life’ with the coupling of tea lady  ‘Myrtle Bagot’ and her bumbling suitor signalman ‘Albert Gody’ played foolishly by Thane and Williams respectively; the movement away from sophisticated upperclass men was refreshing, and added a completely different dynamic to the mix.  Although the portrayal of Doctor Harvey and Laura was moving some of the dialogue did seem a tad too long and attention was easily pulled to the background where animation was continuous and fitting; my favorite moment of the night occurred as Mrs Bagot poured herself brandy after brandy to steady her nerves after an encounter with a couple of demanding army men.

Watching three plays such as these one after the other was an interesting experience, allowing greater appreciation of some fine acting as the cast switched character throughout the three; sometimes to complete polar opposite personalities (Joseph Williams).  In some respects the feel of the play flowed as one, despite the different story’s, due to the overall tone present in the barn, and if you are in the mood for something a little bit different this weekend I would whole heartedly recommend ‘Tonight at 8’.

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