REVIEW: Tonight at 8.30

REVIEW: Tonight at 8.30

REVIEW: Tonight at 8.30

First published in Entertainments

TONIGHT AT 8:30 is a collection of nine one-act plays written by the incomparable Noël Coward, split into three trios in a collaborative production by Nuffield and English Touring Theatre.

Originally written for and last performed in its entirety by Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in 1936, this production was the first time since then that all nine playlets have been staged in one marathon event.

With so much more to Coward’s writing than merely frivolous society comedies and ditties, this “lost masterpiece”, divided into three trios, embraces the full range of his insightful writing (society rules and conventions may have changed over the decades, but not the essence of human nature and desires); it is an opportunity for the audience to deepen an already existing appreciation of, or to be introduced to, the genius of a masterful, arguably under-rated, playwright.

The variety of genres on display, encompassing intricate observational comedy, farce, satire, vaudeville, melodrama and romance, also allowed the universally impressive cast, under Blanche McIntyre’s expert direction, to showcase a range of styles, pace, characters, class, power battles, emotions, physicality and skills to wonderful effect.

Among so many notable performances, Orlando Wells (Christian) mesmerised as an unravelling psychiatrist, Kirsty Besterman’s diversity was enthralling and Rupert Young’s lyrical, musical voice warmed the soul.

Enhanced by stunning costumes, perfectly pitched sound effects, wonderfully creative, atmospheric lighting and a brilliantly designed set, beautifully dressed, the company transported the audience back to an age of eloquence and etiquette with elegance and panache.

Before this production goes on tour, the three trios may be viewed at the Nuffield Theatre in isolation, over different evenings or, for the more adventurous or committed, enjoyed in special triple bill days where 1930s themed menus and photo opportunities in classic costumes are available.

For an absolutely charming and engaging theatrical event, this is an occasion that should not be missed.

ANNE WAGGOTT

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