The Odd Couple – Female Version: April 2017

Review by Karina Hayward

It was less about ‘odd’ and more about a match made in heaven, in this amusing and frank look at an often fraught friendship between two very different women.

The play opened to ‘the girls’ playing Trivial Pursuit (which immediately fixes us in the 80’s timeframe).
Shayla Ash, Sally Penman, Anne Wheeldon and Vicky Prince made us believe that they really did get together every week to play Trivial pursuit, gossip and complain about Olive’s food.
Sophie Tame as Olive was the ‘slob’ , the relaxed friendly divorcee who owned the apartment in which the games and the play were hosted. She has an easy going look on life and an encyclopaedic memory for sports.
Carrie Millinger then joins the group, nerves shredded and considering suicide as she has just left her husband. Carrie plays this with a suitable tension, and then gradually we realise how neurotic she is. I don’t think that the term ‘Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder’ was in use at the time, but it would fit the character. I would have liked to have seen an obviously growing discomfort at being confronted with Olive’s persistent untidiness, but Carrie’s performance was capable and credible.
Sophie and Carrie certainly rose to the challenge, taking on the demanding roles Both captured the nuances of their opposing characters and scenes between the two were a joy to watch.
The arrival of the boys Peter Cornish and James gave the play a well-timed lift as the comedy stalwart ‘misunderstood European foreigners’. I don’t think that the term Brexit was in use at the time, but it would fit the situation.
All of the roles were played with energy, collaboration and a sense of fun. Special mention must go to Anne Wheeldon as Vera and Peter Cornish as Manuel, who made me laugh at loud.
I thought the set design was excellent with the small individual touches adding authenticity to a trip down memory lane to the 1980s.
The typical 80’s New York apartment was credibly recreated, and as we moved through the evening we could see more and more of Olive’s influence as it turned from a shabby ‘batchelorette pad’ into a picture of urban chic.
The costumes were similarly excellent, exactly fitting the period. Yes , we really did wear that stuff. All costumes suited the decade and the character’s personalities.
The backstage team were quietly efficient just as they should be.

Although some of the set changes were a little long, I was completely distracted by the excellent choice of songs that were played while I am sure the stage management team were frantically at work behind the shut curtain!

<edit – costume changes as well>
In addition to the 80’s appropriate soundtrack, the few incidental sounds were handled so naturally that I didn’t notice them.
The lighting was effective, very few dramatic lighting changes required by the script but overall it was well done.
Alex Stringer’s direction was spot on and saw a play that was well thought out, with attention to detail made to all elements, including the American accents and culture (the glossary in the programme – detailing all of the cultural references in the play – was certainly welcomed!). The scenes where heightened drama were required (such as throwing the spaghetti, or was it linguine?) were built to a nice crescendo in pace and volume, and well handled. We also got to see fleeting glimpses of the deep personal friendship between Olive and Florence, such as giving a massage after a hard day, that shows us that although they can’t live together, they can’t live without each other either.
All in all, a fun night out for all – It was just a shame that the audiences weren’t larger and more people couldn’t enjoy it!
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