Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Baker's Wife at The Union Theatre

It seemed a bit unlikely that a musical would fit into the tiny Union Theatre, where we'd last seen an excellent production of Somerset Maugham's For Services Rendered. The Baker's Wife was adapted into a musical in 1938 from a film by Marcel Pagnol but not staged until 1989, directed by Trevor Nunn at the Phoenix Theatre. It only ran for a month because despite winning an Evening Standard award it was losing money.

The theatre space was completely changed, with the seats in straight rows instead of arranged in a horshoe shape as they had been for the Maugham play, and the air dark with billowing smoke. Whoever was working the smoke machine for the rehearsal had overdone it, so the first scenes took place in light more reminiscent of a London fog than a Provencal afternoon. Later on, there was supposed to be a fire in the bakery, but no extra smoke was needed.

The rendition was competent for the slight tale of a discontented wife, although the ensemble routines seemed cramped. As it was press night, the management provided cakes in the cosy bar, to chime with the bakery theme. I was disappointed not to have wine, but was feeling peckish so that when a sweet almond and cherry slice proved to be the best I've ever tasted I overdid it by eating two pieces.

Last time we'd approached the theatre from the Waterloo end of Union Street,walking along The Cut but this time we came from London Bridge. All the pubs round Waterloo had been crammed to the rafters but on this occasion we spotted a quiet little place in Union Street in the other direction, called The Charles Dickens, where we enjoyed a peaceful pint while we discussed the play. Oddly enough, the beer was called Oscar Wilde.

My review appears on the Remotegoat website.

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