The audience is invited into the apartment of Mr. and Mrs Vincent Price in the hour before they are due to be presented as Hollywood legends at the Oscars. We are treated to creme brule and the domesticity that a life in the theatre and on screen entitles the couple. There are anecdotes, there is wine and there is much humour that develops through the play.
I would however caution that there is a risk in delivering a main character who is automatically signalled as 'funny' because she swears when she is talking about going to confession. As a character Coral initially came across as crass, mean spirited and a spoil-sport. There is the resentment of growing old and forgotten and then losing the fun, life and vitality of a character. In contrast Vincent Price is a ball of laughs the entire way through, their chemistry would have been stronger from the start if they were playing off each other rather than at each other at the beginning. It didn't come across as if this was an actor/director decision, but from the writing. Peter Quilter is an experienced and internationally recognised playwright, perhaps he felt that the audience should warm to the character as the play went along. Still, for a play claiming to be championing her it wasn't until we moved into Coral's past and her encounters on/off the stage and on/off the set that the play settles into a very enjoyable narrative and she is given a chance to shine.
That said, when Carol does shine, she does with great aplomb. We see her encounter British traitors in Moscow, star in a film as part of the sexual revolution and chat with Alan Bennett (squeal!!) as she battles cancer to continue filming An Englishman Abroad. It is also a pleasure that as Coral becomes more naturally and easily amusing, her relationship and banter with Vincent becomes a highlight. Grant Smith and Heather Lythe have great fun towards the end of the play when the chauffeur comes with their car. The ensemble cast of Michael F Cahill, Chris Broadstock and Jo Gill are adaptable in their many roles and round off an excellent cast.
The theatre in the courthouse is comfortable, the set fitted well and the photographs of Coral Browne although not incorporated into the action (except the one on the program cover where she learn she had been recently ravished by the photographer) were impressive enough to have the distinction of decorating the space. The set adapted well into sets/stage rooms and the coach functioned very well as a bed for one of the most hilarious scenes.
For all that laughter and warmth and applause as Vincent Price and Coral Browne finally made their entrance at the Oscars, I came out of the theatre feeling for all I had seen still did not really know Coral Browne, but that I really wanted to know her. I for one will certainly make every effort of investigate further into the life of this remarkable woman.
Mrs. Vincent Price is playing at the La Mama Carlton Courthouse until 27th Feb.
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