Une réalisation au succès retentissant!

Royal and Derngate Northampton

I had never heard of director Jacque Tati`s film Playtime, recently named amongst the top ten films of all time by the British Film Institute, so I had very little information about the theatre adaptation I was about to witness at the wonderful Royal Theatre in Northampton. I knew it was a comedy but beyond that I had no idea what to expect!

What a pleasant surprise it turned out to be! For the first twenty minutes it appeared to be a pastiche of many short sharp sketches of observational and situation vignettes I had seen on television or come across in real life situations. The opening sequences at the airport with the cast pretending to use escalators and moving walkways was very amusing. When entering or leaving these modern technological innovations I recognised straight away the awkward movements we have all made at some time when using them. I also found myself reflecting on the people watching I had made at airports and how precise the observations were. The tail fins of aircraft passing by added to the sense of location.

Enoch Lwanga as Mr Hulot Yuyu Rau as Barbara & Valentina Ceschi as Taxi Driver

The six cast members flicked from one character to another leaving the stage as one character and entering seconds later with a quick change of hat or jacket and returning as another. Many of the short sketches I was familiar with, the sheet of paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe, the fumbling caress or embrace using your own arms, the lost cat from the luggage bag and the small suitcase into which very large objects comfortably disappear. Despite their familiarity, on many occasions I could predict the outcome long before the joke arrived, it was always very funny, and I laughed and smiled along with the packed audience. There was a definite feel-good atmosphere in the sold-out theatre.

The Cast

I found myself warming quickly to the characters particularly the comic and loveable Monsieur Hulot, the central figure through which the threads of the story flow. It was some time before I realised that there was a story such was the energetic flow and pace of the rapid-fire short sketches. I did begin to question whether two hours was perhaps too long to sustain such a production, but I had no reason to doubt the production as the show got better and better and the comedy kept on coming!

Yuyu Rau

At the interval I found myself making comparisons with what I had just witnessed with the works of comic heroes of mine such as Woody Allen and Rowan Atkinson. I could see some of the human observational comedy of Allen and Atkinson in many of the comedic sketches. There were other moments, the creaking leather couch reminded me of a leather clad Dick Emery trying to sit on a leather settee with all the groans, creaks and stretches as a result. There was also a little mime, reminiscent of Marcel Marceau, rather appropriate as this production was set in Paris.

The Cast get on down!

The simple, clean sharp stage set, and musical pieces alongside a couple of original songs, helped add to the wonderful sketches. The clicks, snaps and clunks of a ticket machine merged perfectly with the clicking heels of a character walking. The bottle of red wine white wine caper was predictable but still amusing, nonetheless. I loved the short rapid sketches, the kind of observational visual comedy that comics such as Morecambe & Wise did so well.

Abigail Dooley, Valentina Ceschi & Martin Bassindale

The Award-Winning Dancing Brick have established a reputation for creating beautiful, off-beat characters and stories which show off their imaginative story telling at its best and this production is no exception. Playtime is simply opening our eyes to the comedy all around us, it is about looking at the world in a different way. At times we can all feel a little uncomfortable and uneasy in the sometimes complicated technological world in which we live in, taking a step back and recognising the humour and humanity within us all is the key that unites us. Playtime attempts to recognise our vulnerability through its comedy and sensitivity.

Enoch Lwanga & Abigai Dooley

An excellent small cast, just how many different characters did they depict? Pilots, Chefs, Cleaners, Drunk Waiter, Air Steward, Tourist, Nun, Bell Boy, Mr Hulot, Football Fan and many, many others! A real triumph for them all.

Valentina Ceschi, Abigail Dooley, Yuyu Rau & Martin Bassindale

Theatre group Dancing Brick, Co-Artistic Directors Thomas Eccleshare & Valentina Ceschi and all the staff at Royal & Derngate deserve huge recognition for their creative output and organisation in producing what is the first of this seasons Made in Northampton programme. A hugely successful production!

Martin Bassindale, Yuyu Rau & Abigail Dooley

I would fully recommend Playtime; it was for me an unusual & unexpected revelation which I enjoyed enormously. I laughed at the sketches and even moved my feet to the beats of the music. The swift and rapid succession of funny sketches entertained me and the audience. It is one of those performances where I could just sit back and be entertained without any real thought on my part.

Valentina Ceschi, Martin Bassindale & Yuyu Rau

Sometimes I just want to be entertained and laugh out loud, this was one of those occasions!

Playtime continues at Royal & Derngate Until Saturday 17th September

Abigail Dooley & Martin Bassindale
Valentina Ceschi & Martin Bassindale