22nd Oct, 2020

What's In a Name at the Birmingham Rep is a real 'feast of fun'

Bromsgrove Editorial 3rd Feb, 2017

IF YOU are a fan of most things French – the cuisine, the noir movies and the tough TV series like Braquo, you need to add this playwriting duo to that list – Alexandre de la Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte.

‘What’s In a Name’ is their first play to be premiered in Britain. Adapted and directed by the legendary Jeremy Sams, it is a ‘feast of fun’ and undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable nights you will have had at the theatre for a while.

The set design by Francis O’Connor of a trendy double-storied flat in Peckham complete with exterior patio and an amazing moon provides the perfect setting for this intelligent and emotional comedy.

Vincent (an excellent performance by Nigel Harman) bookends the play with an opening, ‘meet the players narration’, that cleverly includes himself and a warm epilogue at the end.

In between there are 90 frantic minutes of name calling in every sense at the dinner from hell.

Good friends trade insults, food and blows – the cruelty and irony of which is sidesplitting fun for the audience.

Yet and this is the clever bit of the writing/acting/direction we feel passionately for and with them too.

The final speech by Elizabeth (Sarah Hadland) where she tells them all to go forth and multiply is a veritable tour-de-force and received a well-deserved ovation.

The whole company gels perfectly and should be mentioned individually – Jamie Glover as Elizabeth’s trendy intellectual husband Peter, Olivia Poulet as Vincent’s pregnant wife Anna and Raymond Coulthard as Carl the charming trombonist.

In its original language ‘Le Prénom’ (What’s In A Name?) was nominated for six Moliére awards.

I believe this REP UK premiere has ‘Olivier’ written all over it too.

Catch it if you can – it cannot be recommended highly enough.

by Euan Rose

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