Park Theatre, 4th May 2017
Jez Bond and his team at the Park Theatre (with the help and goodwill of assorted North London luvvies I think) are doing an ever more successful job in my view in staging new plays and productions that people want, or should want, to see. Which is ultimately the whole point. If no-one sees a play it is a shame, if people see it but don’t really enjoy it (ponderous Shakespeare or clobber you over the head issue plays spring to mind) then it has similarly failed to deliver.
I am signed up for Twitstorm, Rabbits, Loot, What Shadows, The Retreat and Daisy Pulls it Off in forthcoming seasons here and, in contrast to some of the stuff I get to, have found it a relatively easy task of dragging along a willing chum to many of these. Whether it is the subject, the writer or the cast there is normally a clear hook to make me part with the cash. There is also a nice buzz about the place.
And so it was with Madame Rubinstein. A comedy based on the life of cosmetics magnate Helena Rubinstein, with Miriam Margoyles in the lead, was enough to persuade the SO, BUD and KCK to schlep up to Finsbury Park mid-week. And I think we were all glad we did.
Now it would be pretty easy to knock this play (many of the proper reviews have done just that), written by Australian John Misto and which MM herself was instrumental in bringing to this theatre. There is a sense that Mr Misto has tried to cram all the key events of Ms Rubinstein’s life, biopic style, into a couple of hours to the detriment of any real insight into her character. This also means the messages such as they are – the barriers that stood in the way of Ms Rubinstein and her rival and nemesis, Elizabeth Arden, their need to re-invent their own pasts in order to sell their dreams to their consumers, the part that cosmetics played in the emancipation or otherwise of women in 1950s America – end up being diluted. And this in turn is not helped by the unrelenting focus on keeping up the gag quotient.
But when it is this funny and entertaining who cares. It is hard to imagine anyone else but Miriam Margoyles delivering the stream of one-liners that she was gifted with. But Frances Barber as Elizabeth Arden and Jonathan Forbes as long suffering assistant, Patrick “Irish’ O’Higgins, gave as good as they got. Yes the jokes are often on the obvious side of stereotypical and yes there is a campiness about the whole affair that some might not welcome. And the multiple scene changes (mostly just shifting of desk and chairs) are distracting. But we laughed. A lot. As did everyone else there.
So a top night out for all. Apparently this is sold out now but if it pops up somewhere else take a look and, as I say, if anything else piques your interest in what is coming up at the Park I think it is worth taking a punt.