Monsieur Popular, Bath Ustinov Studio

revsMonsieur Popular - Nicola Sloane (Madame Colombot) Gregory Gudgeon (Vernouillet) Charlotte Wakefield (Emma) - credit Simon AnnandTHE autumn season at Bath Theatre Royal’s Ustinov Studio opens with flourish, as Eugene Marin Labiche’s farce Monsieur Popular weaves its deceitful magic on a newly-framed stage until 7th November.

The new translation by Jeremy Sams is full of wit and guile as it unfolds the comical story of a “confirmed bachelor” who takes the plunge. The suave and attractive Celimare is 47, and has spent his adult life in one romantic affair after another, always with married women, and always making sure to befriend the husbands to give him convincing entrees into their houses.

On his wedding day to a young bride, the two most recent cuckolded husbands turn up, swearing eternal friend­ship and wanting an invitation to the ceremony.

Of course, chaos ensues.

revsMonsieur Popular - Raymond Coulthard (Celimare) Howard Ward (Bocardon) Iain Mitchell (Colombot) - credit Simon AnnandThe problem with this play is that it was written in three acts, two of which are set in Paris and one in the country.  At the Ustinov it is reduced to two – the very long opening act and very short denouement, and even so it runs for more than two and a quarter hours.

That’s not to say that the production,  both translated and directed by Jeremy Sams, who also composed the music, is not a delight. It really is.

The cast of all-singing all-dancing actors do it proud, providing a “new” French farce with all the elegant elan demanded of the genre. Of course songs are an innovation, and an excellent idea, too.

Raymond Coulthard is the perfectly choice in the central role, full of charm and slippery ingenuity – if the new inlaws didn’t appreciate his attraction, most of the audience certainly did.

revsMonsieur Popular - Charlotte Wakefield (Emma) and Raymond Coulthard (Celimare) - credit Simon AnnandGregory Gudgeon’s marvellously dreadful widower (and unsuspecting cuckolded husband) Vernouillet is a joy, and Howard Ward’s bombastic Bocardon is similarly deceived.

If you are a lover of French farce, this has that little bit extra, with songs, dances and hilarious asides.



Photographs by Simon Annand

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