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Arlington Arts Centre - Cowardy Custard

31st May 2007

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Stunning Coward review by students

Cowardy Custard was a revue devised by Bernard Miles to be the Mermaid Theatre’s contribution to the 1972 City of London Festival. Noel Coward’s songs are interspersed with monologues outlining the stages in Coward’s life, starting with his childhood in Teddington.

The production, which is on tour in the South, was by students from GSA Conservatoire, an acting and musical theatre school. And what a stunning production it was! There were seven men and seven women in the cast, and the men took it in turns to deliver the monologues as Coward, with white jacket and red rose buttonhole, recounting his family history but wisely resisting the temptation to parody Coward’s over-clipped enunciation.

The first act took us through the 20s and 30s, getting off to a vivacious start with Play Orchestra Play. Samantha Ahern and Tim Edwards were a rather nerdish couple bringing poignancy to the gentle love song You Were There. One of the highlights of the first act was A Room with a View by the delightfully world-weary couple Lisa Fox and Jack Kristiansen, in turn bored and enthusiastic with each other.

Garlanded with leis on the beach, Beatnik Love Affair gave an anachronistic leap into the future with its lyrics about nuclear bombs and sputniks. Back in the 20s, Poor Little Rich Girl brought out the pathos of the superficiality of life in the fast lane.

Mad About the Boy gave us a poignant transition from a group of pining girls to Robin Parrish, as Coward; an impressively moving interpretation.

After the interval we moved forward to the war years, starting with London Pride. High points in this act were Alice Is At It Again with Tim Edwards and Jessica Ellen Rudd, Bronxville Darby and Joan with Marianne Hare and Matthew Kirby, and a rousing rendition of Let’s Do It with topically updated lyrics.

This was a delightful evening, with polished and professional performances from all the cast, giving clear enunciation and moving seamlessly from British to American accents. Arlington Arts Centre was a great location for it, and it’s a shame that there was such a small audience, only just outnumbering the cast.