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Davor Golub

Review: HARLEQUINADE/ALL ON HER OWN at the Garrick Theatre

Harlequinade We are incredibly lucky in London to be in the midst of an era where commercial theatre is being reinvented by daring directors and producers. Unlike New York where only sure-fire, star studded hits ever make it to Broadway, the likes of Michael Grandage and Kenneth Branagh are providing the opportunity for audiences to experience an exciting range of both new and old works in the commercial West End.

As part the inaugural season of the Kenneth Branagh Company two lesser-known Terrence Rattigan plays, ‘Harlequinade’ and ‘All On Her Own’ are playing in repertory along with a star-studded version of ‘A Winter’s Tale’.

Whilst neither of the plays are Rattigan at his absolute finest, they are both thoroughly fascinating and I applaud Branagh for giving us the opportunity to experience them.

The curtain raiser, ‘All On Her Own’, is a 25 minute monologue chillingly delivered by the wonderful Zoe Wanamaker. Originally written in 1968 for TV it was adapted for stage in 1976 and presents us with a slightly inebriated widow having a dark night of the soul facing uncomfortable truths about her marriage. It is an enigmatic, slightly mysterious piece and Wanamaker pulls it off with a touchingly truthful performance.

Harlequinade,’ on the other hand, could not be more different. A lively, sweet-hearted farce it is Rattigan’s love letter to the theatre following the antics of a Shakespearean troupe putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet in the provinces. As the aging actor-manager of the troupe, Branagh chews up the scenery delightfully and his comic timing is a joy. Wanamaker makes a few brief scene-stealing appearances as a boozy dame, a la, Edith Evans.

On occasion the actors push a little too hard to make up for the fact the Rattigan’s writing is not quite as sharp as it could be. Nevertheless I was smiling throughout and the audience roared with appreciation at the end.

I was smiling throughout and the audience roared with appreciation at the end

As was to be expected of Branagh’s new venture, it is a classy act comprising great direction, top-notch production values and a talented company of both veteran actors and exciting newcomers. I look forward to the rest of the season.

Harlequinade tickets