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The Odd Couple at the Theatre Royal : Still a zinger

Shane Jacobson, Todd McKenney, Lucy Durack, Penny McNamee in The Odd Couple (c) Pia Johnson
Todd McKenney and Shane Jacobson The Odd Couple (c) Pia Johnson
Lucy Durack and Penny McNamee in The Odd Couple (c) Pia Johnson

Neil Simon’s play THE ODD COUPLE set in New York in the 1960s and featuring neat freak Felix Unger moving in  the ultimate slob Oscar Maddison’s apartment is one of the plays that has perennial appeal and will always draw in audiences.

Theatre producers John Frost and Crossroads Live have come together to put on a fresh production of the play, and have brought together a great cast and production team  to make it a memorable revival.

Mark Kilmurry, Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre Company, helms the production and his style is to play it as high, uproarious comedy without the slightest note of seriousness or earnestness and it works a treat.

Two major acting drawcards, Shane Jacobsen and Todd McKeeney, play the main roles. They are excellent in playing their very extreme characters, Shane playing the ultimate slob Oscar and  McKenney the ultimate neat freak. Being such extreme personality types there in no way that they can live in the same space in harmony.

Oscar invites the Pigeon sisters who live upstairs for dinner, cooked or more properly said burned by  Felix. This is a hilarious encounter and the two giggly sisters are ditzily played by Lucy Durack as divorcee Cecily and Penny McNamee as widow Gwendolyn

The card players make for  an authentic, very ‘dry’ boys club.  The performances are good caricatures; John  Batchelor as  Oscar’s laconic accountant Roy, Laurence Coy as the sarcastic Speed, Jamie Oxenbould as the henpecked, awkward Vinnie and Antony Taufa as the straight shooting NYPD policeman Murray.It was great to see Coy in a comic role. I have seen him mainly in dramatic  roles. Taufa proves yet again what a strong, confident presence he has on stage he exudes.

Kilmurry’s creative team each made important contributions;  Justin Nardella’s finely detailed period set,  Trudy  Dalgleish lit the stage well, Michael Waters clean sound design, and fun, over the top wigs by Michele Skeete.

A note to end on; theatre can often be  very cerebral, edgy experiences. My sense is that some times  theatre can be deliberately complicated and complex so that it doesn’t become a boring experience.

There is no complexity about THE ODD COUPLE  and yet is not boring at all.  It zings along with  great zest.  A kind of comfort theatre that audiences may well gravitate towards in these difficult times.

A coproduction of John Frost and Crossroads Live, this revival of Neil  Simon’s THE ODD COUPLE, directed by Mark Kilmurry, opened at the Theatre Royal on Sunday 30th June 2024.

Production photography by Pia Johnson

 

 

 

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