Monday, 29 November 2021

Placing spotlight on harsh realities of family life

Placing spotlight on harsh realities of family life

Saturday, Sunday, Monday | Kenton Theatre | Tuesday, October 19

IT must be tough for a director such as Teri Zambigli, with her Italian connections, to direct an English cast in a play by one of the country’s renowned playwrights, Eduardo de Filippo.

She did an excellent job, always making sure that the actors carried on acting, even when they were doing nothing more than sitting at the table — but where was the Italian passion? This production could have taken place over roast chicken in an English country house with the family and neighbours falling apart over Sunday lunch, rather than being based around the making of the famous ragu sauce for an Italian family’s get-together. Where was the passion? Come on cast — let those passions rip!

This play is billed as a comedy but there were plenty of moments of agony, tragedy even, in the painful portrayal of a long marriage.

All that apart, it is old-fashioned fun and a peek at the realities of family life.

With performances by Tim Green (the ageing Grandfather whose body language is amazingly good) and Archie Newland (Rocco, the cocky young son of the family — what a wonderful pain he is), David Parsonson completely holds the stage as the slightly deranged Michele, while the double act of Pam Pitts-Simmons (Elena) and Stephen Taylor-Brown (Luigi) give us a perfect portrayal of an effusive, larger than life husband and his hen-pecked, submissive wife. Perfection indeed.

Liz McEwen as the housemaid Virginia is perfect in her role and does much to hold the production together.

Mention must also be made of Aunt Meme (Rachel Head), whose pace was perfect throughout and of the leading lady, Julia Ashton as Donna Rosa, the highly strung, menopausal wife of the peevish, low-energy menopausal man, Don Peppino.

At least one could hear every word (and there are many) that Julia speaks — not true of all the cast. She was perfect in every way.

The costumes and the set were so perfectly in tune with the period of the play (late Fifties), especially the gorgeous dresses worn by the sulky, difficult daughter, Giulianella (Lili Tuttle).

It has been a struggle for the Henley Players to get this production from page to stage given the challenges of coronavirus but what a joy it was.

Until Saturday.

Bridget Fraser

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