One has to question why two stars of this calibre would be drawn to this slight and ultimately disappointing French play adapted and directed Belinda Lang. I suppose the precedent of some highly successful productions of this sort, Art for example, might have been the lure. This particular translation lacks the dynamics of that.

Peter and Laura are due at Peter’s business partner’s home for dinner but Laura has a meltdown. That’s pretty much it, the kids have flown the nest, Peter is selling his share in the business and… well as I say, that’s pretty much it.

Laura reveals a feigned infidelity, Peter bemoans the fact that in the interests of health he has foregone the temptations of the dessert trolley (when did you last see a dessert trolley?) and in the desperate search for a few laughs they resort to a slapstick food fight.

Harsh? Perhaps, but I sat waiting for the big laughs as promised  but few came. Griff Rhys Jones looks every bit the dull tax expert, but from the start his character is so full on that he really has nowhere to go with the role as the evening develops. Janie Dee is as ever very good and from smart upper middle class housewife she gradually reveals her desperate disappointment in how her life has played out, but to what end?.

The production is undeniably smart, an immaculate if old fashioned set has a timeless look, it could be Chiswick in 2022 or 1972, which might explain the dessert trolley reference, but ultimately the crux of my disappointment is that I could not have cared less for either of this comfortably well off couple, couched in their smart home, divested of their kids and free to embark on the freedoms afforded to the well heeled as they move into retirement. Disappointed? No! Lucky!

I hoped for fireworks but all I got was Griff Rhys Jones covering his face in whipped cream and Janie Dee squirting mayonnaise into her mouth in a play that, had it been written as a TV sit-com, might never have proceeded beyond a pilot.

Andrew Kay

Theatre Royal Brighton

21 March

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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