REVIEW: No Laughing Matter

  • Performed at the Art’s Theatre, London.
  • January, 1957.

 Character: Gerard Barbier

 LAUGHING - Copy

 PETER (Centre) as Gerard, with Brenda Bruce as his wife, Adelina, and Paul Daneman as Jean-Louis.

Act I

The attic of Gerard’s house in Paris

Early evening in Lens

Act II

A suite in a hotel on the Cote d’Azure

Three weeks later. Morning.

Act III

The same. Two hours later.

Time – The present

No Laughing Matter, by Armand Salacrou was a French farce that took itself very seriously indeed, and might’ve been written by Noel Coward with a conscience.

At surface level, this was a frivolous piece of fluff about that favourite Gallic pastime, infidelity. But beneath those giddy flounces of cuckoldry and adultery, there was a serious moral purpose. It was like meeting a can-can dancer with a message!

The plot was a complicated permutation of two triangles. They were inter-related by the fact that two of the men, Gerard – a deceived husband played by PETER WYNGARDE and a deceived lover – are best friends.

When Gerard hears that the friend is about to run off with a married woman, he is all enthusiastic in support and hearty approval. He does not realise however, that at this very moment his own wife is about to run off with another man.

Salcrou ingeniously sites the action so that the husband’s defence of his friend’s action neatly boomerangs against himself: “When a woman no longer loves her husband, she has every right to leave him,” Gerard self-righteously points out to his wife, whose own lover is waiting for her in the garden below.

With sardonic irony, Salacrou pirouetted the familiar trio of husband-wife-lover before his audience so that they could view them on the many planes as a Cubist painting. The wit throughout was tellingly caustic, but laughter was brought up short just before curtain-fall with a pistol shot, a suicide, and a realisation of the emptiness of grand passion.

Although Peter Wood’s production was smoothly expert, it stubbornly remained very British in atmosphere in spite of all the efforts of the electricians to simulate the sunny haze of the Cote d’Azure.

Critic’s Comments…

“…Mr PETER WYNGARDE handles this woman’s husband of his volatile temperament…” The Times – January 27th, 1957

“… PETER WYNGARDE, too, manages to forget his Anglo-Saxon reserve and give full life and conviction in his portrayal of the outraged husband…” Plays and Players – March 1957

The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/

 

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