A Chorus of Disapproval

Posted on: 05 October 2012 by Gareth Hargreaves

Laurence Green gives his vote of approval to Rob Brydon's West End debut at the Harold Pinter Theatre

A Chorus of DisapprovalSexual politics, power struggles, shady dealings and even the odd play. Apparently just a normal day for the average amateur dramatic society! Or so it appears to Alan Ayckbourn in his eighties comedy A Chorus of Disapproval, which is reviewed in an enjoyable new production, directed by Trevor Nunn, at the Harold Pinter Theatre (formerly the Comedy).

The Pendon Amateur Light Operation Society’s production of The Beggar’s Opera is going off the rails, that is until handsome but shy young widower Guy joins the group. An instant hit with the company’s ferociously zealous director Dafydd and the show’s leading ladies, including Dafydd’s wife, Hannah, Guy soon gets more than he bargained for as he discovers that all the best action happens off-stage. 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.

Ayckbourn’s observations of the poisonous world of amateur dramatics seems spot-on and consistently funny. But beneath the light hearted exterior the playwright attempts something for more subtle – a microcosm of society that reflects the world at large, and his parallel between the characters in The Beggar’s Opera and the Pendon performers are both clever and inspired. Ayckbourn himself says in a programme note, “This (The Beggar’s Opera) is usually filled with romanticised pimps, prostitutes and highwaymen but here we see their modern equivalent as property developers, dodgy builders and bored housewives”. On the down side, though, I felt a certain zip and energy were missing at times and the production would have benefitted from being tighter and sharper.

Nunn nevertheless draws, delightful performances from his hard working cast. Nigel Harman perfectly captures the awkwardness of the naive widower Guy, the pivotal figure in the play, who sets hearts fluttering and tongues wagging, while Daisy Beaumont fully convinces as a glamorous seductress and Ashley Jensen is totally engaging as her exact opposite, a woman convinced that she is unattractive but discovers that she can be. 

However the undisputed star of the show is Rob Brydon, making his West End debut, as the overbearing yet insecure director of this provincial amateur dramatic society, a local solicitor by day and theatrical big wig by night. His comic timing is splendid and he succeeds marvellously in conveying the outward bravado and in ward vulnerability of the man.

This is certainly a production which should appeal to West End audience and definitely gets my vote of approval!


A Chorus of Disapproval 

Harold Pinter theatre
Box office 0844 871 7622
Runs until January 5 2013

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