THEATRE REVIEW: A Chorus Of Disapproval

I don’t think I went along to Trevor Nunn’s revival of A Chorus Of Disapproval in altogether the best frame of mind. Slightly ill, distracted and sat behind one of the Harold Pinter’s infamous pillars, the evening did not start especially well.

The play itself, written by Alan Ayckbourn, and first performed at the National Theatre in 1984, sees the Pendon Light Operatic Society try, amateur in every possible sense, try and largely fail, to put on a decent production of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. When relationships begin to break down, and the actors’ lives becomes intertwined and tangled through affairs and backstabbing, all hell breaks loose in the rehearsal room, with the ‘on-stage’ action mirroring life in the wings.

Starring Rob Brydon as the production’s well-meaning but ultimately mark-missing director, Ashley Jensen as his underappreciated wife and Nigel Harman as the shy new star in town- there are plenty of big names in this production. Brydon, undeniably the biggest crowd draw of all, is excellent, visibly enjoying his character, Dafydd Ap Llewellyn’s obsessions and ambitions, expertly invoking them in every heavily accented line.

Jensen gives a moving, sweet performance as the sexually frustrated and lonely Hannah, with Nigel Harman strong, but not especially remarkable opposite her.  There are some great performances to be found elsewhere, Daisy Beaumont and Northern Broadsides’ Barrie Rutter in particular, along with a consistent and promising West End debut from new talent Georgia Brown. There are some fantastic one liners and great comic set pieces- such as a scene in Act 2 which sees the cuckolded and oblivious Dafydd charging about the said cuckold and his wife shouting up into the circle and worrying about the intricacies of his lighting.

As such, there are some lovely moments of well-timed comic theatre to be found in A Chorus of Disapproval, but, overall, there were too many polite titters and not enough belly laughs for my liking. Perhaps I was put off by the pillar and the over loud teenagers behind me, who insisted on repeating every punch line back to themselves at least twice. 
 Perhaps I wasn’t in quite the right mood. Perhaps my experience last week was negatively influenced by my utter delight at the Old Vic’s similarly themed, and better executed Noises Off earlier in the year, coming off badly in the comparison.

Perhaps it was just me.

So by all means I would encourage you to go, laugh and enjoy- it really is worth it for Rob 
Brydon alone- but perhaps don’t go expecting the earth to move.


A Chorus of Disapproval is at the Harold Pinter Theatre until the 5th January.

- Jen

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