Boulevards of romance

April in Paris

Malvern Theatres

****

Actress Shobna Gulati's characters in Coronation Street and Dinnerladies have always been fairly insipid.

As both Sunita in Corrie or Anita in the Victoria Wood comedy, she was meek and downtrodden to the point of despair.

This latest role, however, in the bittersweet comedy April in Paris is a two-hander opposite Joe McGann that offers a surprisingly more adventurous and funny side to Gulati.

It's a charming play about a warring couple who win a trip to Paris and find that the break reignites some passion in their dwindling relationship.

It was written by John Godber, who writes realistic everyday life dramas and whose previous work includes Bouncers, and another two hander about a couple on holiday, September in the Rain.

And like September in the rain in Blackpool, April in Paris is a gentle but watchable affair that needs two big personalities to carry it off.

Both Gulati and McGann fit the bill and give strong performances - and they need to as they are the only actors on stage during the 2 hours and a bit show. Well, the only ones if you discount the quirky pair of Parisien-style mime artists that occasionally appear to oversee a humorous change of set.

The story starts off in a gloomy fashion with the fractious couple making witty but constant snipes at each other at home. 

Al is an out of work small-minded builder with no desire to go abroad while his wife of 27 years is more optimistic, entering competitions to see the world between shifts at a shoe shop.

The fun begins when she finally hits the jackpot, winning a trip by ferry to the French capital.

Opening their minds to new places and food, the pair get into plenty of scrapes that will hit a familiar note with most couples. 

Gulati is refreshingly silly and animated while McGann is a reassuring romantic lead, who opens himself up to new ideas and cultures. There's still a touch of the charming Charlie from The Upper Hand about him - a role that made his a household name.

Don't expect flowers and hearts as this isn't a sweep you off your feet romance. It's a slow burning observational comedy with heart.

Continues until Saturday 16-08-14

Alison Brinkworth

12-08-14 

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