April In Paris – Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

Sometimes in our everyday grey lives all we need is a little injection of colour. That’s certainly the case for Bet and Al. They’ve been married for 25 years and virtually all the joy has been drained from their lives. He’s unemployed and spends most of his time taking refuge in the garden shed, she sells shoes for a living and takes refuge in her glossy magazines.

All looks bleak for the pair in John Godber’s April In Paris. Then life takes a turn for the better and Bet’s addiction to magazine competitions pays off when she wins a romantic trip to Paris. Can the ultimate city of love rekindle their passion or have things gone too far?

Originally written in 1992 for John Godber and his wife, Jane, April In Paris has become a regular part of the Hull Truck repertoire over the years. Now revived starring Rob Angell and Wendi Peters, and directed by Godber himself, it’s lost none of its power.

It’s an all too real look at relationships that contains moments that will be perhaps too close to home for anyone that is in, or has ever been in a longterm relationship. The give and take, the frustrations, the arguments over the silliest things but, ultimately, the love that conquers.

Godber’s writing captures perfectly the trials and tribulations of relationships. It’s a script full of dark humour, witty one liners and killer put downs. Alongside the sniping, however, there is also passion, hidden though it is at times and some genuinely moving and poignant moments.

While the writing is well crafted, it does require a convincing couple to perform the piece believably. The chemistry between Wendi Peters and Rob Angell is evident throughout, utterly gripping as the married couple. Peters’ Bet blossoming with the possibilities that a new culture offers and Angell’s initially cynical Al discovering his own artistic block freed by new horizons. There are echoes of Shirley Valentine here but, unlike Shirley, both Al and Bet find fulfilment. Both actors manage to balance the comedy with the pathos that keeps the audience gripped on the journey.

This is an intimate show that focuses on the detail, not only in the relationship but also in the staging. Pip Leckenby’s design slowly transforming from a monochrome Hull where even the tomato sauce is grey, to a North Sea Ferry, to the sophistication of Paris, where colour eventually seeps in to the monochrome existences of Al and Bet.

John Godber always manages to capture the rawest of human emotion in productions that resonate with audiences. In April In Paris he manages to look at what it means to be in a relationship and this production is the perfect marriage of script, direction, acting and staging.

Photo: Rob Angell and Wendi Peters in April In Paris. Photo by Louise Buckby

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