GERALD Sibleyras’s play An Hour-and-a-Half Late is recognisably French, a sort of Yasmina Reza-lite, following a pattern set by both she and Florian Zeller of small-cast, intense, domestic stories of family function and dysfunction.
But the new play, adapted and directed by Belinda Lang and starting its six-venue UK tour at Bath, is also very much English, set in Surrey in the home of a soon-to-retire after a very successful career tax consultant.
Peter is waiting, in his elegantly pristine Farrow and Ball and OKA decorated drawing room, for his wife Laura to be ready to go to dinner with his business partner. But what he might have anticipated as a delicious dinner with fine wine to celebrate the takeover of his shares by his partner doesn’t quite go according to plan.
Laura is prevaricating. And it’s soon clear that her hunts for lipstick, a present, the right keys …. are a portent for something MUCH MORE SERIOUS.
Played in real time, the hour-and-a-half is spent discussing the big things of their lives together and what might happen in the coming months and years.
It’s the sort of discussion and analysis that people get to at a certain age, the more aware we become of choices, inevitability and mindfulness. So it is at once acutely topical and timeless.
Janie Dee brilliantly personifies Laura, unpredictably airing questions she has been nurturing and honing for all the years of her marriage to Peter. Her mercurial take on life illuminates the stage.
Griff Rhys Jones is the slightly flappy, innately sexist husband, a good provider who hasn’t really bothered to think about what’s going on in his intelligent, energetic and unfulfilled wife’s head. His work, leisure, home life and thoughts are on tram lines, and he hasn’t realised that “retirement” will change the pattern. If he does think about it, it’s to look forward to developing his gourmand taste buds and growing his waistline.
There are some wonderfully funny lines in this slight but amusing play. It’s not too complicated, punches home some universal messages and is all over in the 90 minutes of the title, in line with the preferences of the “new theatregoer.”
Photographs Marc Brenner