As the audience enters, Greg Hicks sits at a pub table on an otherwise bare stage. It’s impossible not to watch him until the house lights dim, and this opening sets the tone for the two and a half hours to come.
So why doesn’t the current production of Lettice and Lovage at the Menier Chocolate Factory push my buttons? I fear it suffers from Forty Years On Syndrome – a circumstance whereby even with what seems like dream casting of Richard Wilson as an irascible headmaster, Alan Bennett’s masterly first play comes up lifeless and irrelevant at Chichester.
It’s a brilliant, inventive and perceptive deconstruction of the Saturday night out. Originally performed at the Fringe in 1977 as a two hander it first appeared as a four-hander in the early Eighties. But this is the nineties remix, reworked again from its Yorkshire origins so that it has a solid Edinburgh feel to it.
Resolutely theatrical and visually arresting, the version of Jane Eyre at the Festival Theatre retains the flavour of that well-loved book while succeeding admirably on its own terms. This adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s novel was originally devised for the Bristol Old Vic and is now touring in partnership with the National Theatre of Great Britain.
Last time I saw circus mixed with flapper era razzle-dazzle and golden-age Hollywood themes, it was in the Broadway musical debut of Cirque Du Soleil, Paramour. Now, Gostinitsa – the outstanding new show from Moscow State Circus – takes the same glamorous aesthetic but eschews attempts at plot, setting its high-skill acts within the comings and goings of a fantasy hotel.