Company

August 5, 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Vibrant

C Aquila (Venue 21): Wed 3 – Sun 14 Aug 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

EU Footlights burst onto the tiny upstairs stage of the Roman Eagle Lodge with a gloriously effective production of Company for one week only, running to Sunday August 14.

It is a production which gets to the nub of Stephen Sondheim’s cynical show with the minimum of fuss. And while enforced running of a two act show all at once, without an interval, leaves the whole thing open to the odd flat moment, the overall effect is solid and articulate.

Promotional shot for EU Footlights’ Company

Company plays around New York resident Bobby, played here with a puppy dog’s sense of impishness – but doing what he is told – by the excellent Conor O’Cuinn. Bobby is single and facing a “surprise” 35th birthday party where all the guests are his married friends.

He later meets them, couple by couple, in a series of vignettes. Smoking grass with Jenny and David (Eleanor Flavin and Sebastian Schneeberger), discovering that the perfectly married Susan and Peter (Hattie Masters and Theo Chevis) are divorcing and getting terminally cynical with Joanne (Giulia Pesciarelli) while hubby Larry (Angus Hogg) dances the night away.

expansive

Whatever their own status, all the couples cling to their belief that married is the only way to be – while simultaneously being jealous of his single status and attempting to find him a soul mate.

Based on a book by George Furth it is Sondheim’s music and lyrics which drive the show. And the Footlights use all the nuances available, to ensure that their telling is as expansive as it can be, while being, by sheer necessity, the most stripped back of productions.

Hattie Masters, Conor O’Cuin and Theo Chevis in a promo shot for Company

The strong seven piece band under MD Rebecca Kelly squeeze into a good half of it of the possible playing area. And with cupboard sized wings, it is a wonder that the cast can fit the 13 kitchen chairs that make up the totality of the set, onto the stage at all.

While Bobby pants along from one couple to the next, ultra-tight movement direction from co-directors Clare Nolan and Phee Simpson ensure that although there is an abstract nature to it all, there is a clarity to where this rather sophisticated game of musical chairs is going.

astutely done

Theatrically, the five couples create a deliciously diverse range of meetings. Sarah (Kirsty Nolan) and Harry (Chris Kane) are having eating issues. She tries not to eat, he tries not to drink. Nolan and Kane are both very funny and completely on point in their portrayal.

The sharing a joint scene is particularly effective with both Flavin and Schneeberger working hard to on what is fairly obvious comedy. But they work easily with what is there and it is all astutely done. The way that Amy and Paul’s wedding breakfast is going is obvious too, but Lucy McClure and Tom Steed make it fresh and leave you yearning for them to make it right.

Giulia Pesciarelli and Angus Hogg with Conor O’Cuinn in a promo shot for Company

The joy of these interactions is that the comedy is obvious, but that each scene leads to an unexpected place. And all the while, as the action moves between these trio situations and the ensemble, Giulia Pesciarelli’s brilliant Joanne is lobbying cynicism grenades into the mix.

It’s Pesciarelli who gets the great Ladies Who Lunch number and she does it proud. It’s a stand-out number, but to be honest there is hardly a hiccup in the whole show. Maybe a bit of straining at the end of some of the male singer’s ranges but nothing of particular note.

Bobby’s three girlfriends – April (Olivia Hall), Kathy (Nina Harman) and Martha (Chelsea Laurik) – provide a different depth. Laurik is particularly brilliant on the memorable Another Hundred People.

If the staging is constrained, the singing is not. It is a particular pleasure to sit in a room which is small enough for microphone-free individuals to fill without straining their voices and in which the whole ensemble can properly lift the roof.

It’s a big ambitious show for the Footlights to take on in such a small space, but their tight choreography and clever staging make the whole thing a delight.

Running time: One hour and 45 minutes (no interval)
C Aquila, Roman Eagle Lodge, 2 Johnston Terrace, EH1 2PW (Venue 21)
Wed 3 – Sun 14 August 2022
Daily: 3.35pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Chelsea Laurik, Olivia Hall and Nina Harman with Conor O’Cuinn in a promo shot for Company

ENDS

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.