Birmingham Repertory Theatre – until 11 February 2017
I liken this piece, written by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre De La Patelliere, to the work of Yasmina Reza. Exploring dysfunctional family settings, breaking down each character until they’re each stripped bare and vulnerable and it’s hard to imagine how they will work through the fall-out. There’s also the French origin in common, of course and I see the similarities with God of Carnage (by Reza).
What’s In A Name has been adapted and directed by Jeremy Sams, this play was a belly laugh inducing raucous ride with foul language that added impetus to the heated debates that ensued and a cast who demonstrated an acting master class de force. It’s a ninety-minute comedy drama which twists, turns and eve shocks at times. The fact that there is no interval also works in its favour; none of the impact or momentum is lost and the roller coaster ride that the audience collectively embark upon is hair raising for all the right reasons.
Elizabeth and Peter have planned a dinner party to which they have invited Elizabeth’s brother, Vincent, his partner, Anna and friend of the family, Carl. Vincent and Anna are expecting a baby and having had their recent scan, Vincent is itching to tell the gathering about the name they’ve picked for their Son. He is slightly disappointed at the reaction to the decision to call the boy Adolphe, especially given the names of his niece and nephew, Gooseberry and Apollinaire! However, as we discover that Vincent is fond of a wind-up, intentions become clear. There are bigger surprises to come than an unborn child being named after a mass murdering dictator, too.
Nigel Harman plays Vincent, he’s a spoiled little brother who takes on the role of the narrator before the dinner party that he has been invited to at his sister’s house, gets going. His sister, Elizabeth is played by Sarah Hadland and they are a remarkably believable brother and sister pairing. The exchanged banter and unpleasantries at a heady pace and were perfectly cast as the neurotic sister and smug, joker of a brother. Jamie Glover packed a punch as Elizabeth’s husband, Peter. He was assertive, over-bearing at times and the chemistry he shared with Hadland made them a spikey and very typical married couple which I’m sure many members of the audience could identify with! Raymond Coulthard was fairly benign to begin with as life-long friend and second trombone player, Carl. He is portrayed as gay or certainly comes across that way, which paves the way for revelations later on. Olivia Poulet is a haughty and self-assured Anna, it is obvious that she despairs of her partner, Vincent and although she is pregnant, she already has a child to look after in many respects!
What’s In A Name resembles a snapshot into every day family life. The witty, observational script combined with a cast who are all at the top of their game ensures that this production wouldn’t look out of place in the West End.