April In Paris – Review

April in Paris.  Photos by Robert Day.
Shobna Gulati and Joe McGann in April in Paris. Photos by Robert Day.

We all assume a cosmopolitan demeanour the more multi-cultural Britain becomes but, actually, for some people a mini-break to Paris can still be a big deal.

John Godber’s delightful two-hander, April In Paris, which is now touring, takes parochial northern couple Bet and Al on a whistle-stop tour of the French capital in a bid to save their stale marriage.

Written in 1992 it has the feel of a much older play – when continental travel was less common – and, if I didn’t know better I’d say that Hanif Kureishi borrowed the plot idea for the 2013 film hit Le Week-End.

Bet and Al are struggling after 27 years of marriage. Al, a jobless builder, spends his time turning out bleak so-so quality paintings of industrial landscapes while a bored and listless Bet constantly snipes at her other half.

They’re taking bickering to another level while thrown together 24-hours a day in their poky new-build home.

Then one day Bet wins a romantic mini-break to Paris. Al, who has never been on a ferry before, initially refuses to go.

But, perhaps out of sheer bloody-mindedness, he relents.

Shobna Gulati (Corrie’s late-lamented Sinita) and stage and screen star Joe McGann present us with a pretty naive couple who don’t appear to have ever travelled further than Stockport for their holidays.

April in Paris

Every new experience serves to bring the couple closer, from Bet vomiting (don’t ask) to visits to tourist attractions in the world’s most romantic city (loved Pip Leckenby’s picture postcard set design).

They get an Eiffel of the tower and have their eyes-opened by a trip to a drag show in the notorious red-light district; they ride the Metro, visit the Mona Lisa and battle with a French menu in a restaurant.

Will Paris work its magic and save their marriage or is it too late?

Gulati and McGann make a lovely, if mismatched, couple who bring romance back to the stage with an endearing and comical performance.

The gaucheness of the characters stretches credibility at times but we’re not all globetrotters and I’m sure there are still people like Bet and Al out there, even in this day and age of package tours and continental travel.

April In Paris tour dates:

July 29-August 2, New Victoria Theatre, Woking
August 5-9, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
August 12-16, Malvern Theatre
August 19-23, Churchill Theatre, Bromley
August 26-30, Glasgow Theatre Royal
September 1-3, Lyceum Theatre, Crewe
September 4-6, Opera House Manchester
September 9-13, Richmond Theatre
September 15-20, Chesterfield Pomegranate
September 24-27, New Brighton Floral Pavilion
September 30-October 4, Dundee Rep Theatre
October 7-11, Belgrade Theatre Coventry
October 14-18, Civic Theatre, Darlington.

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