Centenary Theatre Group has a good production on its hands here. Director Ron Finney has assembled a fine cast in a fast-paced and amusing rendition of this charming play.
Jean Anouilh’s work is not often seen on the amateur stage (or professional for that matter). However, while his “black plays” such as the well-known Antigone are not exactly community theatre crowd pleasers, the much lighter Ring Round the Moon is a good choice for Centenary and the cast and crew have done the work proud.
Billed as a mixture of “champagne, liaisons, farce, romance and mistaken identities”, I cannot reveal too much of the plot without spoiling the experience for potential audience members. Suffice to say the play offers much to its actors and each cast member attacks their role with gusto. As the feisty Madame Desmermortes, Patsy McCarthy delivers an excellent balance between family patriarch and nosy manipulator. She is complemented well by Leigh Varma as her faithful companion Capulat who manages to portray the girlish naivety of the character in a most believable manner. The other standout is Sarah Strachan as Isabelle who has the audience in the palm of her hand from start to finish, complemented well by June Finney as her pleasantly dotty mother.
Of the male cast members, I was particularly amused by Hugh Taylor’s portrayal of Joshua, the long-suffering butler. This actor has lovely comic timing and some of the funniest lines of the play. In the central dual role of twins Hugo and Frederic, Michael Lawrence has plenty of energy and obviously enjoys the fun of switching characters at the drop of a hat. I would however prefer a more pointed contrast between the two roles with a clearly defined change in posture and vocal delivery.
On the whole, the entire cast work together as a cohesive ensemble with entrances, exits and line delivery well-paced throughout. Plays of this kind need to be slick and Ron Finney has obviously spent a great deal of time working on the fast pace required to make the piece work. Tightly choreographed scenes such as a fabulous tango sequence and an all-out brawl between two of the women work particularly well and provide a variety of movement for actors to enjoy and audiences to relish. Lighting, sound and a beautifully understated set designed by Sue Watson all contribute to a very polished production.
If there is anything negative to say, I don’t feel the ending works as well as it could and I would like to see more attention to detail in the costuming. While the vintage daywear, evening gowns, furs and dinner suits set the scenes well, some inappropriate choices of modern footwear (both male and female) unfortunately spoil the charade.
These are very minor criticisms, however, for a production which has so many positives.