×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Chorus of Disapproval

A backstager about the shenanigans amid members of a local amateur operatic company attempting to stage a production of "The Beggar's Opera," Alan Ayckbourn's 1984 "A Chorus of Disapproval" sits somewhere between his own "The Norman Conquests" and Michael Frayn's "Noises Off."

With:
Guy Jones - Nigel Harman
Dafydd ap Llewellyn - Rob Brydon
Hannah Llewellyn - Ashley Jensen
Bridget Baines - Georgia Brown
Mr Ames - Steven Edis
Enid Washbrook - Teresa Banham
Rebecca Huntley-Pike - Susan Tracy
Fay Hubbard - Daisy Beaumont
Ian Hubbard - Paul Thornley
Jarvis Huntley Pike - Barrie Rutter
Ted Washbrook - Matthew Cottle
Crispin Usher - Rob Compton
Linda Washbrook - Jessica Ellerby

A backstager about the shenanigans amid members of a local amateur operatic company attempting to stage a production of “The Beggar’s Opera,” Alan Ayckbourn’s 1984 “A Chorus of Disapproval” sits somewhere between his own “The Norman Conquests” and Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off.” Sadly, in Trevor Nunn’s overly earnest, heavy-handed revival it’s neither as dramatically effective nor as funny as either of them.

Everything revolves around shy, thirtysomething widower Guy Jones (Nigel Harman). Not only is he the newest arrival in this small-town operatic group, he’s handsome enough for all the women to take a shine to him. And, as various unseen calamities befall members of the cast of the impending production, Guy ascends the ladder to the leading role.

In basic shape, it’s not unlike “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.” But instead of everything being the result of one man’s driving ambition, the potentially amusing rise of Ayckbourn’s hero is unengineered. Hapless Guy keeps being promoted as a result of everyone else’s selfish needs.

Many of those are sexual. Guy finds himself bedded by not just vampish Fay (Daisy Beaumont) but, more crucially, Hannah (nicely judged Ashley Jensen), the neglected wife of the group’s overweening director Dafydd (Rob Brydon).

An audience favorite due to his huge TV career as stand-up and comedy performer largely of his own scripts, Brydon’s performance is problematic. As if determined to prove himself an actor of someone else’s material, he presents Dafydd as “a character.” Brydon, himself Welsh, here sports a ludicrously strenuous Welsh accent. To match that, he slows his delivery and over-elaborates still further with an equally labored physical performance.

Dafydd is a typically blind Ayckbourn husband, comically insensitive to the needs of his more sympathetic wife. Amusing though this initially proves, there should be a pay-off in the pathos he evokes when he discovers he has been cuckolded. But Brydon’s performance is so broad that although the writing shows Dafydd’s pain at the play’s climax, the performance doesn’t elicit true sympathy.

The play, set firmly in 1984 when it was written due to the marital attitudes on display, now has a “period” feel when once it was contemporary. But instead of fleshing that out, Nunn has encouraged his actors to follow Brydon’s lead and exaggerate characterizations into distancing caricature. The clashes between them should be funny, but everything feels too labored. Engaging subtlety is lost and laughs drain away because audiences know what’s coming and it’s far too slow in arriving.

Susan Tracy is amusingly arch as Rebecca, the operatic society’s grande dame. But when Rebecca observes that Dafydd always hides her behind a piece of the set because she’s such a poor actor, the line doesn’t land. That’s not Tracy’s fault. It’s a result of Nunn having chosen to make every one of the society members look like bad actors.

That decision also weakens Ayckbourn’s dovetailing of his own plot with that of the show-within-the-show. Since everyone in the society looks amateur in the worst sense, it’s impossible to take their work in “The Beggar’s Opera” seriously. Ultimately, despite striving so very hard for poignancy, the production is more notable for its effort than its achievement.

Popular on Variety

A Chorus of Disapproval

Harold Pinter Theater, London; 785 seats; £53.50 $87 top

Production: A Sonia Friedman Productions, Tulchin/Bartner productions, Adam Kenwright, Peter Fetterman/Adam Blanshay, Lady Delves Broughton/Rupert Gavin presentation of a play in two acts by Alan Ayckbourn. Directed by Trevor Nunn.

Creative: Sets and costumes, Robert Jones; lighting, Tim Mitchell; sound, Fergus O'Hare; musical direction Steven Edis; movement, Etta Murfitt; production stage manager, Howard Jepson. Opened, Sept, 27, reviewed Sept. 26. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MINS.

Cast: Guy Jones - Nigel Harman
Dafydd ap Llewellyn - Rob Brydon
Hannah Llewellyn - Ashley Jensen
Bridget Baines - Georgia Brown
Mr Ames - Steven Edis
Enid Washbrook - Teresa Banham
Rebecca Huntley-Pike - Susan Tracy
Fay Hubbard - Daisy Beaumont
Ian Hubbard - Paul Thornley
Jarvis Huntley Pike - Barrie Rutter
Ted Washbrook - Matthew Cottle
Crispin Usher - Rob Compton
Linda Washbrook - Jessica EllerbyWith Luke Bateman, Rebecca Brewer, Richard Emerson, Joanna Kirkland.

More Legit

  • The Inheritance review

    Broadway Review: 'The Inheritance'

    The real hero of “The Inheritance,” Matthew Lopez’s thoughtful, moving and painfully funny play, is E.M. Forster, the celebrated English author of “Howards End,” “A Room with a View,” “A Passage to India,” and “Maurice,” that last a gay-themed novel published after his death in 1970. It’s quite the literary thrill to find the great [...]

  • Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works

    Stephen Sondheim's 'Follies' in the Works as a Movie From Heyday, BBC Films

    David Heyman’s Heyday Films, whose credits include “Gravity,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Marriage Story” and the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises, and BBC Films have secured the film rights to Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s musical “Follies.” “Follies” will be adapted for the screen and directed by Dominic Cooke, a four-time Olivier [...]

  • Tina Turner The Musical

    How 'Tina: The Tina Turner Musical' Tells the Icon's Traumatic Story

    It wasn’t the response Tali Pelman had hoped to receive. The group creative managing director of Stage Entertainment had traveled to Küsnacht, Switzerland, with one goal in mind: Convince Tina Turner that her life could be the stuff of a successful stage musical. “We walked in the door,” Pelman remembers. “Tina was already there, and she greeted [...]

  • Ben McKenzie

    'Gotham' Star Ben McKenzie to Make Broadway Debut in 'Grand Horizons'

    “Gotham” star Ben McKenzie will make his Broadway debut in Bess Wohl’s “Grand Horizons.” He joins a cast that includes Oscar nominees Jane Alexander (“Kramer vs. Kramer,” “The Great White Hope”) and James Cromwell (“Babe,” “L.A. Confidential”). The show has a strictly limited 10-week run and begins previews on Dec. 23, 2019, before officially opening [...]

  • The Great Society review

    Listen: Brian Cox on 'Succession,' Shakespeare, and the Crisis We're In

    Brian Cox is having a pop-culture moment with “Succession,” the buzzy HBO series in which he stars. But he’s also an accomplished theater actor with plenty of experience doing Shakespeare — and it serves him well in both “Succession” and in his current Broadway show, “The Great Society.” Listen to this week’s podcast below: Cox [...]

  • Scooby Doo Ella Louise Allaire Martin

    Scooby-Doo Live Theater Tour Is Goofy Dane's Latest Adventure

    From its 1969 start as a Saturday morning kids mystery cartoon series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” starring its titular, talking Great Dane and his four teenaged friends, has made adventure its staple. Once Hanna-Barbera’s successor, Warner Bros. Animation, took the leash, Scooby and company became a comic book, a board game, a series of video [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    'Tootsie' Ending Broadway Run in January

    “Tootsie,” the critically acclaimed musical adaptation of the 1982 classic film comedy, will play its final Broadway performance on Jan. 5, 2020. When it wraps up its run, the show will have logged 293 regular and 25 preview performances at the cavernous Marquis Theatre, where it sometimes labored to draw big crowds. Last week, “Tootsie” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content