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April in Paris needs more spring in its step


April in Paris, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, from May 17 to May 19. By Barbara Goulden

I can see why artistic directors at The Belgrade chose a classic old-fashioned comedy for what was apparently the first live play in the country since Covid restrictions were eased.

But I can't help wishing it hadn't been this one. April in Paris was meant to begin its UK tour in January when none of us knew whether we'd ever be coming out of Covid and theatres everywhere went dark. This explains the minimal sets - two chairs and a few screens - plus a couple of solid performers: Sarah Earnshaw and actor- comedian Joe Pasquale. They play Bet and Al, a couple who've been married for 26 years and have basically run out of conversation. Even though the play was written by the great John Godber that was way back in 1993. Today it creaks with humorous one-liners which I suspect half the audience could have predicted. Having said that I did love the survey in Bet's magazine that suggested 26 per cent of all men would prefer a pint in the pub to making love to their wives. And that's how it seems to Bet...until one of her endless competition entries wins them a dream holiday weekend in Paris. They've hardly left Hull aboard a P&O ferry when she turns into a dancing queen. Then we're all off to the Mona Lisa and The Eiffel Tower. To steak tartare and French latrines, all cleverly choreographed without the use of props. Both actors worked extremely well together, although I rather suspect that while Joe Pasquale has the bigger name, Sarah Earnshaw has the bigger part and seizes it with both hands - and feet. The play is short and largely fun, but for me, just a tad tired. Nor was I the only person in that eager first-night crowd to notice that after this hum-drum pair said they'd never been further than Ireland before - they later referred to a couple of weeks in Lloret de Mar. For all that this comedy has a very clever ending. And it was great to be back watching live theatre. Roll on City of Culture. Tickets: ww.belgrade.co.uk