Ring Around The Moon, Frome Drama Club, Merlin Theatre

promptringJames Moore Hugo and FrederickFRANCE is currently in the news for such terrible reasons that it is a welcome pleasure to be reminded that for most of us French culture is synonymous with sharp intelligence, wit, style and romance.

French drama is particularly renowned for its sparkling romantic comedies, often satirical, frequently sexy. From Moliere via Marivaux to Feydeau, the master farceur, and Anouilh, in the 20th century, the battle of the sexes is played out with a sophistication and an elegant sense of the absurdity of the human condition.

So this week we have had the opening of the Georges Feydeau farce The One That Got Away at Bath’s Ustinov studio (reviewed below), while Frome Drama Club stages the deliciously wise romantic comedy Ring Around The Moon at the Merlin.

Written shortly after the end of the wear, the play is set at the grand country home of the wheelchair-bound Mme Desmortes (Gillie Richardson) and satirises the self-centred and often vapid lives of the very rich.

It is a complicated and at times farcical story of identical twin brothers, arrogant, knowing, confident Hugo and insecure, romantic Frederic (brilliantly differentiated by James Moore). Hugo wants to disentangle his brother from his obsession with Diana (Roxy Thomas), the daughter of multi-millionaire Jewish businessman Romauld Messerschmann (a drily funny but touching performance by Laurie Parnell).

To this end, Hugo has paid for pretty ballet dancer Isabelle (Naomi Parnell) to impersonate a protegee of a wealthy older man, Romainville (Robert O’Farrell).

The cast is completed by the vain Lady India (Michaela Bosquet), mistress of Messerschmann but also having an affair with his secretary Patrice (Richard Thomas), Joshua, the crumbling butler (charmingly portrayed by David Gatliffe), Capulet, the “faded companion” of Madame Desmortes (Annie Ward) and Isabelle’s embarrassing mother (Sue Ross).

The play has been compared to a ballet, but it is also a fairy tale, and this delightful production brings out both aspects with exquisitely choreographed movement by director Philip de Glanville, and some of the original Poulenc music between the acts.

Anouilh can sometimes seem to be too cool and detached for the audience to care about the characters, but this charming production makes us care, not only about Isabelle and Frederic but also about the sad Monsieur Messerschmann who learns that money really can’t buy you love!


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