Perfect return to West Dean Gardens for New Theatre Productions
New Theatre Productions, West Dean Gardens, Festival of Chichester, until July 9.
There’s something wonderfully reassuring about New Theatre Productions’ first return to their summer slot since 2019.
Their decades at West Dean Gardens have been a West Sussex delight for three crucial reasons – high-quality performances of an appealing, exciting choice of plays delivered in the most idyllic setting imaginable.
Simply to sit there makes you think that basically all is alright with the world – even when it isn’t.
The fact that we are still in deeply troubled times makes New Theatre Productions’ return all the more to be cherished – a little reminder that this is how things once used to be.
This year the company has wisely gone for all-out comedy, alternating comedies of different kinds across their two-week run.
It was Rumours by Neil Simon in its British version that we saw last night, and what a treat it was.
No company gives its audience a warmer, friendlier welcome; no company offers its audience a finer location.
And then the skill of the actors and the magic of performance take over – a couple of hours, in this case, of accelerating mayhem as a bunch of people try with diminishing success to lie their way out of a potential scandal.
Guests are turning up to discover their host indisposed in the most ghastly way and his wife mysteriously absent. They sense the ramifications and, arriving two by two, they dig themselves in ever deeper as the porkies tumble out of the mouths.
Tensions mount – and so too do the minor injuries…
It’s the most convoluted web of unlikely, contradictory untruths that they weave – and it is testament to the cast that they keep it all going so manically.
And then late on, company co-chairman Peter Breskal arrives as a bemused “you won’t pull the wool over my eyes” cop determined to unravel it all.
You will never quite fully understand why they all resorted to fabrication so furiously in the first place, but Barbara MacWhirter directs the escalation of it all masterfully as the characters drown in the torrent of their own lies.
It’s hilarious – and therefore, very very welcome right now.
New Theatre Productions are the friend that you are always delighted to see.
Absence has certainly made the heart grow fonder.
Rumours is alternating with Come on Jeeves
Rumours: June 27, June 29, July 1, July 5, July 7, July 9.
Come On Jeeves: June 28, June 30, July 2, July 4, July 6, July 8. Tickets £10.