Costume drama that fills the stage
Meet the courtesans of Camille:
From the left are Zoe
Sutton Arts Theatre, Sutton Coldfield
THE stage that customarily houses breathtaking, luxurious settings is largely bare throughout director Ian Appleby’s account of this Pam Gems classic.
But the costume-drama story of a courtesan’s rise from the streets, presented here barely a month after the playwright’s death at the age of 85, is one with a tale that fills the stage unaided, spurred on by an excellent company.
There are the women of Marguerite’s own kind,
whooping excitedly in their gossiping knots, there is the Marquis,
raspy-crackly in his ebullience, there are the ladies of society. One of
them declares: “I don’t want to drive in the middle of the day. The
horses will get hot” – and her delivery, punctuated by a pause between
the sentences, guarantees a laugh. There is the loyal Yvette
Marguerite Gautier, that is to say, is not short of company. But it is the way in which Michelle Dawes and Robert Laird (Armand) develop their partnership against the perils of her failing health and of his father who threatens to choke him with his purse strings that holds the attention.
Michelle Dawes (Camille) with Robert Laird (Armand, her lover)
It becomes a partnership that at times threatens to be riveting. There is tender happiness. We see the lover become the husband and the happiness turn to anguish. All too soon, those impressively-conjured coughs take their final toll. It’s not a story that conjures an outbreak of throat-lumping, but it is an irresistible attention-grabber.
So is the production’s central pairing, ever-confident in presenting the roller-coaster ride of their 19th-Century relationship.
And there is unfailing support from a substantial and splendidly-costumed company, with Andrew Tomlinson outstanding as the Marquis, Debbie Loweth a delight of precision speaking as Prudence, Tomos Frater striking a po-faced blow for the nobility as Count Druftheim, and young Dominic Clarke and Josh Bricknall taking turns in the course of the run as the charming youngster Jean-Paul. They, and all the others in an impressive company, can take justifiable pride in the collective achievement.
There has to be a special mention for Josh Sood, who puts in a marathon shift to maintain his ear-catching responsibilities at the piano throughout.
Great stuff! To 25-06-11.