Senior Citizens Hall, Torquay – seven Performances
||Andrew Pearce – Fabrice
Carleen Thoernberg – Anya
Fred Preston – Sebastien
Jan Weaver – Georgie
Karen Long – Jane Sorodin
Lisa Berry – Pamela
Maryanne Doolan – Cherry-May Waterton
Michael Baker – Clinton Preminger Jnr.
Michael Lambkin – Jacob Friedland
Samantha Booth – Leonora
Sascha Keet – Colin
Siobhan Linde – Marie Celeste
Terry Roseburgh- Isobel Sorodin
||Nude With Violin directed by Ross Pearce for Torquay Theatre Troupe, Torquay Seniors Hall May 21 2009.
In his lifetime Noel Coward was titled ‘The Master’. His plays, packed with short, pithy dialogue reflected his own clipped mannerisms as well as his frequently bitter views on society in his time.
As such, his characters today are difficult to capture – it’s necessary to play them weighed heavy with sardonic irony and light on meaningful delivery. It’s also necessary to be ultra-sharp with timing and off-hand with responses.
The majority of plays post-Coward have called for their actors to utilise diametrically opposite skills, with plenty of stress on meaningful elements.
So it was a pleasure to watch Fred Preston’s performance as the knowing, adept and politely derisive manservant Sebastien in this, one of Noel Coward’s lesser, later and seldom-performed comedies. Fred’s sardonic smile, arched eyebrow and smooth scornfully-subtle delivery was without doubt the play’s highlight.
The paper-thin plot had family and friends gathered in the Paris studio of a newly deceased rich and famous artist following his funeral, only to discover that he had been a fraud trading on his reputation – his ‘works’ having been painted by a succession of amateur acquaintances. These duly arrive in turn for their cut of any inheritance.
As such Nude With Violin calls for a large cast of mostly small parts around a core of central characters with Fred’s Sebastien the key pivot.
His clipped, Coward-friendly delivery allowed Sebastien to dominate every scene, making the other characters appear clumsy by comparison. True, Michael Baker showed ultra-enthusiasm as Clinton the eager American journalist and Michael Lambkin a degree of urbanity as Friedland the art-dealer. Karen Long was sincere and understanding in her part as daughter Jane, Sascha Keet captured the dated dialogue precisely playing son Colin. Terry Roseburgh played the artist’s widow with troubled anxiety, while Lisa Berry gave her daughter-in law Pamela’s character a brusquely casual manner that was closer to Noel’s brittle need. Carleen Thoernberg clearly enjoyed herself as a Russian past-mistress and ditto Maryanne Doolan as a questionable cockney floozy. Siobhan Linde was language-correct as the French maid and Andrew Pearce positioned himself nicely as Maryanne’s kept gigolo. Jan Weaver and Samantha Booth supported as a photographer and spoiled child-artist respectively. The set was workable and for the most part the costumes were suitable for their 1950s period.
So all in all, this was a competent and capable play from an able company of players.
What this Nude With Violin lacked was not clothes or music – it was the pace and dialogue-sparkle of Coward’s time – and that’s a quality extremely difficult to recapture. Just ask Fred.– Colin Mockett