Tonight at 8:30: Cocktails @ Oxford Playhouse Review

Hilarious, ‘high class’ entertainment is had by all in these wonderful adaptations of Noël Coward‘s classic shorts. The English Touring Company have split 9 shorts into three shows; Cocktails, Dinner and Dancing which are performed across three performances. I was only able to see the first of these trios; Cocktails, but would’ve loved to have seen all the shows performed!

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The first play was We were Dancing where Karl and Louise fall in love in mere minutes whilst dancing together, causing much distress to Louise’s husband and sister in law!  This is a wildly entertaining and ridiculous skit but does have some relevance nowadays, particularly when the sunrises and the magic is over (who hasn’t experienced that at some point in their lives?). As expected the actors all speak in high class RP accents, which along with their long silky dresses and black tie tuxedos, is like being been transported to a 1930’s cocktail party. My only criticisms is when Karl sings about how it felt to fall in love with Louise, his singing is not up to much.

After a brief 5 minute pause listening to classical piano (which happened during each interval and made you feel like you were in an old-time cinema!) the actors are back in ‘The Astonished Heart’. The set has a major change from the outside of a bar to the inside of a living room! These shows must really test the minds of both the set designers, stage hands and the actors. Changing shows and characters in under five minutes is by no means easy! The scenes themselves are also wonderful, especially the lighting which matched the time the plays are set; early morning sun streaming through windows, and dim lighting from lanterns hung up for party decorations and spotlights for the music halls, really match the scenes and give a realistic feel.

 The Astonished Heart is a very different pace to the previous show, although it is also about affairs and mistresses, this play shows it in a more realistic and sorrowful way. The story follows Barbara as she welcomes her old friend Leonora into her home. However, it is clear from the next scene that Leonora and Barbara’s husband have ‘fallen in love’. Though it seems that Leonora is more in love with the idea of being in love with him than with him himself. The whole play ends very tragically and was a good contrast to the previous, having the same theme but with a different spin on it.

The third and final play was Red Peppers, about a couple who’s marriage is suffering due to their slowly dwindling variety act career. This play did not seem to fit the previous two, being set in a music hall in Manchester with working class characters. However, it still loosely followed the theme of strained love and was also very funny. This short also kept to the original (and remake which starred Joan Collins) with the action taking place both onstage and backstage. It makes you feel like you are a fly on the wall!

In all of the plays a drink of some kind is found, in the first it is whiskey and soda, the second martini’s and in the third good old fashion beer! This I felt was a very clever way of tying the shows together!

Overall this show is a wonderful two and half hour transportation into the classic 1930’s. The actors, director and set designers have worked to make this a perfect homage to Noël Cowards work, and have really captured the feel of the time period. A must see for all Coward fans out there! My only question would be what happened to the 10th short?

Hilarious, ‘high class’ entertainment is had by all in these wonderful adaptations of Noël Coward’s classic shorts. The English Touring Company have split 9 shorts into three shows; Cocktails, Dinner and Dancing which are performed across three performances. I was only able to see the first of these trios; Cocktails, but would’ve loved to have seen all the shows performed!

The first play was ‘We were Dancing’ where Karl and Louise fall in love in mere minutes whilst dancing together, causing much distress to Louise’s husband and sister in law!  This is a wildly entertaining and ridiculous skit but does have some relevance nowadays, particularly when the sunrises and the magic is over (who hasn’t experienced that at some point in their lives?). As expected the actors all speak in high class RP accents, which along with their long silky dresses and black tie tuxedos, is like being been transported to a 1930’s cocktail party. My only criticisms is when Karl sings about how it felt to fall in love with Louise, his singing is not up to much.

After a brief 5 minute pause listening to classical piano (which happened during each interval and made you feel like you were in an old-time cinema!) the actors are back in ‘The Astonished Heart’. The set has a major change from the outside of a bar to the inside of a living room! These shows must really test the minds of both the set designers, stage hands and the actors. Changing shows and characters in under five minutes is by no means easy! The scenes themselves are also wonderful, especially the lighting which matched the time the plays are set; early morning sun streaming through windows, and dim lighting from lanterns hung up for party decorations and spotlights for the music halls, really match the scenes and give a realistic feel.

 The Astonished Heart is a very different pace to the previous show, although it is also about affairs and mistresses, this play shows it in a more realistic and sorrowful way. The story follows Barbara as she welcomes her old friend Leonora into her home. However, it is clear from the next scene that Leonora and Barbara’s husband have ‘fallen in love’. Though it seems that Leonora is more in love with the idea of being in love with him than with him himself. The whole play ends very tragically and was a good contrast to the previous, having the same the theme but with a different spin on it.

The third and final play was Red Peppers, about a couple who’s marriage is suffering due to their slowly dwindling variety act career. This play did not seem to fit the previous two, being set in a music hall in Manchester with working class characters. However, it still loosely followed the theme of strained love and was also very funny. This short also kept to the original (and remake which starred Joan Collins) with the action taking place both onstage and backstage. It makes you feel like you are a fly on the wall!

In all of the plays a drink of some kind is found, in the first it is whiskey and soda, the second martini’s and in the third good old fashion beer! This I felt was a very clever way of tying the shows together!

Overall this show is a wonderful two and half hour transportation into the classic 1930’s. The actors, director and set designers have worked to make this a perfect homage to Noël Cowards work, and have really captured the feel of the time period. A must see for all Coward fans out there! My only question would be what happened to the 10th short?

Review written by Charlotte Claydon.

Tonight at 8:30: Cocktails is currently touring around the UK. For further information on future productions, visit here…

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