Theatre review – A Song at Twilight

A Song at Twilight – review for Essential Surrey website.

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(image courtesy of Alexey Kuznetsov)

I love ScripTease performances from the innovative team at Lynchpin Productions.

Classic, rarely performed or completely new plays are delivered as rehearsed readings. This creates a very different actor-audience dynamic, compared with a traditional play delivered on a large stage, accompanied by complex set designs and with multiple costume changes.

A ScripTease performance is stripped down to a few actors sitting on stools, the playwright’s words, some succinct stage directions read by one of the actors…..and the audience’s imagination.

At last night’s reading of Noël Coward’s A Song at Twilight, we may have started off in the intimate bar space at Guildford’s Electric Theatre, but we were immediately transported to the suite of an opulent lakeside hotel in Switzerland.

Sir Hugo Latymer is staying here for a few months, recovering from illness and lamenting the onslaught of old age. He spends his time abusing Hilde, his loyal Germanic wife of 20 years, and barking orders at Felix, the strapping young Italian-Austrian waiter. The literary titan of his generation is irascible, arrogant, rude and has a jaundiced view of humanity.

And he’s nervous about the impending arrival of Carlotta Gray, with whom he had a 2-year love affair more than 40 years ago. What can she possibly want now….revenge for what Sir Hugo wrote about her in his blunt autobiography? Money, after a less than stellar acting career in the United States, where she fled at the end of the affair? Or something less tangible, perhaps?

The stakes – and voices – are raised when Carlotta tells Hugo she is collaborating with a Harvard professor on a biography about him, and asks for permission to use some old love letters written by Hugo to her and to a mutual friend.

Coward’s script and the actors’ nuanced readings lead us through a labyrinth of witty words, bluff and counter-bluff, surprises and shocks, camouflaged lives and missed opportunities, to a surprising denouement.

Alan Freeman and Rowan Suart clearly enjoy their verbal jousting as Hugo and Carlotta, Edie Campbell’s subtle German accent never wavers and belies Hilde’s inner strength, and Ray Murphy switches seamlessly between the roles of subservient Felix and stage director.

‘A Song at Twilight is the first in a trilogy of plays entitled Suite in Three Keys, which Noël Coward called his ‘swan song’. Each takes place in the same suite of a luxurious hotel in Switzerland.’ Jack Lynch of LynchPin Productions is considering whether ScripTease will perform readings of the other two plays. I hope they do.

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