7-31 August (ex.17, 24) 14.30
First Class is one of those productions that it is very difficult to review. Imagine, if you will, Alice’s best-friend leaning in and asking, “So, Alice dear, how would you describe Wonderland?” She’d probably reply, “It’s blinking barmy, Emily dear!” and so is this wonderful, daft, warm-hearted show from Lecoq-trained “Half Wit” theatre.
On a mundane trip to the post office, Michael Bates, a man who’s joie de vivre has become limited to a rather jazzy line in sweaters, meets Bea, a postal worker with an ‘enthusiasm’ for France’s capital city. Bea is – I think the term would be – mad as a box of snakes, but she also effervesces with what Michael lacks, which is a passion for Life itself. As Bea unfolds the landscape of her imagination, Michael is slowly drawn into her romance with the City of Lights, and gradually her zest for all things Gallic reignites his own sense of adventure.
Nir Paldi and Amy Nostbakken are both fantastic. What this theatrical pair of Francophiles do not lack is commitment – they have it in crazed-eyes popping-out-of-heads, grins wider-than-the-Cheshire-cat (Yes, I’m running with the Alice analogy), in BUCKET LOADS. They pop and fizzle across the stage, manipulating their bodies and the few props with an intuitive skill which is what makes this production such a delight. While the stage undoubtedly belongs to Nostbakken’s jive-talking Bea, Paldi’s is a beautifully observed exercise in bored, buttoned-up middle age. His lament, “This is not me and this is not real,” is the link to the audience and the mantra of this piece. To whit: Why do we package up dreams, aspiration and ambition until we resemble nothing more than Bea’s corkscrew, manipulated by exterior force, peripheral figures in our own existence?
You cannot help but be up-lifted by this Froggy affair. Watch it, and I promise you that within a week you’ll be sitting in a cafe, sipping a glass of red, gazing out at the river Seine “just you and the big blue”. Isn’t it beautiful?