A performance of myriad mood changes

Barbara Frame
Barbara Frame
The Bald Soprano
82 Bond St
Friday, May 24

REVIEWED BY BARBARA FRAME

In excruciating detail, a woman describes a meal they’ve just eaten to her determinedly unresponsive husband.

Two other people, finding themselves seemingly by chance in the same room, discover in astonishment that not only do they live in the same flat but are actually married to each other. A fire chief wastes firefighting time to tell bizarre and pointless stories.

These are some of the things that happen in The Bald Soprano.

Arcade Theatres production, which opened on Friday, is based on Tina Howes translation of Eugene Ionesco’s French play, first performed in Paris in 1950.

At first, the dialogue is merely platitudinous and banal, but as time goes by (or, as a striking clock suggests, doesn’t) language itself melts down and disintegrates into dangerously meaningless fragments, giving the audience insight into why Ionesco subtitled the work An Anti-Play.

Director Alex Wilson has done a wonderful job. In seconds, moods shift from suffocating to ridiculous to terrifying; and lighting, mirrors and the presence of a very menacing object enhance the sense of peril.

The action often threatens to explode right off the stage and into the audience.

Every performance is admirable. Abby Howells is disturbingly brittle as Mrs Smith, and Trubie-Dylan Smith’s mobile features bring more than a hint of Mr Bean to the part of combustible Mr Smith.

Alex Martyn and Catherine Wright demonstrate comic formality as Mr and Mrs Martin, Sofian Scott slides easily into incomprehensibility as the fire captain, and Rebecca Thompson goes from sulky to fiery as Mary, the maid.

Arcade Theatre is good at finding interesting venues, and 82 Bond St provides a comfortable and suitably intimate space. In post-truth, post-rationality 2019, this 70-year-old Theatre of the Absurd classic is surprisingly timely.

The production runs until June 1.

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