by Tom Stoppard
with music by Andre Previn
Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh
Malvern Festival Theatre
until Saturday 9 March 2019
Reviewed by Rebecca Vines
Anyone who doesn’t walk into the auditorium and feel ‘wows’ thrilling through their veins so busily that they cannot help but say it out loud, several times, to anyone who’ll listen, needs their head read. Colin Richmond’s gorgeous art deco design for the ‘Italian Castle’ luxury liner – all turquoise and ivory – should have even the most hardy of modernists longing for the simpler times of the 1930s when all one had to worry about was laying hands on a glass of cognac. Oh, and a mad right-wing dictator, inexplicably able to seduce a wide swathe of the electorate and seemingly hell-bent on glorifying illiteracy and stupidity, on fuelling racial disharmony, and on denying the LGBTQ community any human rights whatsoever…
But I digress.
Sandor Turai is the dry-throated chap longing for a brandy, and is played with John Partridge’s unique blend of serpentine grace and occasional gurning grotesquery. A wildly famous playwright, knocking out some of the most preposterous and saccharine (read: commercially popular) scripts of the day, he is aided and abetted in his on-board shenanigans by the steward Dvornichek (an utterly glorious Charlie Stemp) as he and his mild-mannered co-writer Alex Gal (a charmingly understated Matthew Cottle demonstrating split-second timing precision and pinpoint delivery) seek to save their latest show from sinking under the weight of the romantic triangulations of the diva leading lady, goaty leading man, and grass-green composer.
Written in 1984 and adapted ‘freely’ from an earlier piece by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar, ‘Rough Crossing’ has aged reasonably well, and most of its jokes still land for most of the time. The cast grapple heroically with the demands of a script which veers as wildly as a storm-tossed liner from martini-dry witticisms one moment to a rather broader end-of-the-pier clowning the next, and what is lacking in any sort of character likeability or truth is more than made up for by the gay abandon with which they are prepared to chuck themselves around the stage.
As one of Stoppard’s least intellectually-smug pieces, this is two hours of feel-good daftery you can safely take either Granny or the grandchildren to, and be assured that they will find something to both ‘oooo’ and ‘ahhh’ at.
Tues–Thurs eves & Sat mat: £36.40, £34.16, £30.80, £27.44 & £24.08
Wed & Thurs mats: £34.16, £31.92, £28.56, £25.20 & £21.84
Fri & Sat eves: £38.64, £36.40, £33.04, £29.68 & £26.32
Concessions & members discounts apply
Prices include 12% booking fee
Eves at 7.30pm
Wed, Thurs & Sat mats at 2.30pm