Review: The Odd Couple

IZZY RICHARDS: ‘If you want to watch The Odd Couple, don’t go to the ADC. Buy the DVD and have a night in.’

Beth Hawkins Izzy Richards John Lewis John Lewis Cambridge Drama Group Sarah Ingram The Odd Couple

ADC Mainshow, Wednesday 12th May – Saturday 15th May, £8/£10

John Lewis Cambridge Drama Group

Directed by Andrew Philips.

‘The Odd Couple’ is a play about the flatmates from hell. Olive is vibrant, sensual and slovenly; her friends know better than to touch her dubious ‘brown’ and ‘green’ sandwiches (‘Either very blue cheese or very old meat’). Florence is a highly-strung cleanliness-obsessed hypochondriac who disinfects trivial pursuit cards. When Florence is left by her exasperated husband, Olive takes her in, and you just know it isn’t going to go well. 

The main problem, really, is that this production was, well, dull. And my first instinct was to look to the cast. Beth Hawkins as Olive lived up to the ‘zesty’ cocktail named after her in the ADC bar (it took several to get me through the play), but her sassy poses and asides to the audience became repetitive. Sarah Ingram’s Florence was funnier, having mastered physical comedy. At one point she’s trying to clear her bunged-up ears and makes a sound and a face that resembles a rat getting its front teeth electrocuted; she then bellows and moans like a diplodocus getting eaten alive.  Needless to say, such small gems were hardly enough to sustain interest through plodding dialogue – especially when Olive and Florence’s friends were mostly a tedious collection of under-acted wallflowers. 

On the upside, the cast didn’t take themselves too seriously and the audience, packed presumably with their friends, seemed appreciative enough. No, the big problem lay with the play itself.

Neil Simon’s ‘The Odd Couple’ was brilliantly successful in the ‘60s. But, it was originally written for two male leads. Simon adapted it for a ‘female version’ in the ‘80s and I think this is why it doesn’t work. For whatever reason, a neurotic clean-freak is funnier when it’s a man, whereas the house-proud woman that we see in Florence is a stereotype not breaking any dramatic ground. And whilst in the original the characters gather for their weekly card game, in the female version they keep playing Trivial Pursuit – one of the most cripplingly boring game of all time. Let me tell you now, it’s even less fun watching other people playing it on stage.

It probably speaks volumes that the funniest scene comes when Olive and Florence are visited by their two Spanish neighbours as part of a predictably disastrous double date. The humour comes from the fact that the neighbours don’t speak English very well. Here poor acting actually added a new layer of subtly, as we could laugh at Brits doing bad Spanish accents too. Yes, I know. He he he.

If you want to watch The Odd Couple, don’t go to the ADC. Buy the DVD and have a night in. It’s got Jack Lemon in it. He rocks the frilly apron look.