Review: Play it Again, Sam

Johannes Lenhard 6 November 2013

7pm, Corpus Playroom, Tue 5 to Sat 9 Nov

Allan just lost it all. There he is, sitting in front of the TV and watching Bogart charmingly embracing one bird after the other while his wife is laughing about some other guy’s jokes. He is quite a geek, yes, but a lovely one. Isn’t he? And he certainly hasn’t deserved the abandonment.

Matthew Fellows has the right features to play this deserted geek. Even though I’m not sure whether the glasses are real, the face is. I know it’s not Woody himself on the stage, but Fellows keeps up the illusion well enough. His lines are timely, his outfit well-chosen and his face just joyful to watch. At times, he is stumbling lucklessly from one gesture to another – but overall he is taking the burden of the play on his shoulders fantastically well. He copes well with the many almost-monologous passages – even his voice somehow fits the bill – while his presence even flourishes when supported by Georgie Henley, who plays Allan’s best friend’s wife, Linda.

Linda gives Allan the attention he needs. While her husband Dick (Paul Clarkson) is constantly on the phone messing up his investments, Linda supplies Allan with distractions of female sorts. Herself a little pale next to a rather shiny Fellows, Henley is growing into the play as it progresses. She swells from a tiny little fresher-plant, who stands on a Cambridge stage for the first time, into an enjoyably active lover. Clarkson on the other hand – whose role is rather unfortunate in and of itself as it oscillates around telephones and business trips – can’t really get over the slightly stuttering beginning.

The plot is driven by constant backlashes – when the light suddenly turns blue and Allan’s ex-wife (Kate Reid) relentlessly talks at him – and the increasing presence of Bogart’s ghost (Justin Wells). Wells, the only one tonight with real experience in student theatre, doesn’t really give me much at first. His voice seems a little made-up, his walk put-on. But when he literally takes over Allan’s thoughts and pushes him into the adventures of playful love, the evening reaches its high point partly because of his manly advice.

Some things felt odd (why is there no liquid in the glasses they are drinking from? who chose the horrible ‘we-need-busy-museum-atmosphere’ noise?), but that shouldn’t put you off at all. Peter Lunga did a good job. He chose the right play (we shouldn’t forget that Woody Allen knows how to write jokes, so the words often speak for themselves) and put together a solid cast that certainly has its star in Fellows. The evening out is worth it; light-hearted comedy with a pinch of romantic tragedy make it a wonderfully enjoyable endeavour.