WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE: Menier Chocolate Factory
WHEN: 5/5, press night 17/5, runs to 8/7
Author Sir Peter Shaffer wrote this three-act play for Dame Maggie Smith in 1987, when we first saw it, and it won her a Tony.
- Read on for reasons including which of its stars took two prompts on this second preview
Smith played the titular Lettice, a tour guide with a love of the theatre and a habit of embellishing her tales of the unremarkable Fustian House.
She is challenged by the formidable Loue Schoen (played here by Maureen Lipman), who works for the Preservation Trust which owns the stately home, and has received letters of complaints about Lettice’s tours.
In this production Lettice is played by Felicity Kendal and, perhaps giving an indication about how difficult the part is, she has to take two prompts from the stage manager sitting with us to our left in the front row of the intimate 180-seat Menier theatre.
Such is the nature of previews and Kendal is otherwise terrific, throwing herself into a part with an emphasis on the over-embroidering of ever more remarkable tales.
Author Shaffer also won an Oscar for Amadeus and was nominated for one for Equus. Lovage is actually the name Lettice gives to the historic alcoholic brew she persuades Schoen to drink with her during the second act which fuels the final act’s unexpected conclusion.
Lipman is a great comic foil here to the charismatic and wildly over-enthusiastic Kendal and they prove a delightful double act to be in the company of.
We saw director Trevor Nunn in the Menier’s bar before the show and would fully expect this sold-out production to follow his last, Love In Idleness, to transfer straight into an adoring West End which would be ready and willing to fall back in love with Lettice and Lovage all over again.