The Bald Prima Donna

SHELBY WHYATT was intrigued by this absurdist (and often incomprehensible) play.

Absurdist amy reddington Ionesco patricia vlad pemboke new cellars the bald prima donna

Pembroke New Cellars , 7pm, 19th – 23rd February, £5

Director: Andreea Dogar

It’s a play called The Bald Prima Donna with only just one fleeting reference to a bald prima donna. The stage is essentially empty. There are four chairs but no table, whilst six pictures of the cast form the backdrop. Characters conduct monotonous, and often incomprehensible, conversations. Married couples behave as though they don’t even know each other. Oh, and, at the end, it all descends into chaos. The ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ is always tricky to pull off, but Andreea Dogar’s production just about manages it.

Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Prima Donna revels in repetitive and tedious conversation. It doesn’t sound very fun, I know. Yet, strangely enough, it is. Following the Smiths and the Martins, it focuses on the dynamics of two dreary, middle-class marriages. However, it is the inanity of their discourse which provides the vast majority of the play’s humour.

One of the funniest scenes in Dogar’s adaptation, for instance, saw Mr. and Mrs. Martin (Alex Vlad and Lucinda Perret) attempting to work out how they knew each other. Having apparently forgotten that they’re married with a young child (it happens to the best of us, I’m sure) they seem astounded to find have so much in common. From catching the same train to sleeping in the same bed, they are repeatedly amazed by ‘what a coincidence’ it all is. It was this kind of pointlessness that only seemed to get funnier the further it was pushed. In this case, for at least five minutes.

Sadly though, the cast appeared unable to maintain this level of energy throughout the entire production. At times, they seemed lost in the incomprehensibility of it all. Consequently, they sometimes struggled to deliver their lines with any real depth. That said, Amy Reddington was excellent as Mrs. Smith. Whilst her expressions seemed slightly exaggerated, she brought a genuine vivacity to the role. Thoroughly engaging, this was something her fellow cast members could have benefited from at times.

Similarly, Patricia Vlad deserves credit for her portrayal of Mary. Providing some of the best physical comedy in the production, she really did stand out. Her ingenious mime of Mr. Smith’s short story, ‘The Snake and the Fox’, for example, was one of my favourite sequences in the play.

Although there were some genuinely funny moments, however, it generally felt as though I was laughing at the writing, rather than the production. Reddington and Vlad deserve special mention for really injecting life into their performances, something which was regrettably lacking in other cast members. Perhaps it was due to first night nerves, but the dialogue sometimes fell a little flat.

This was a shame because, when it was good, it was very good indeed. Some of the best scenes in the show involved no more than two people, often engaged in completely inane conversation. The weak points, however, put a dampener on things; even when it picked up, I felt a little on edge in case it went downhill again. But, whilst not particularly inspired, Dogar’s production was by no means bad. It was just missing the spark that would have made it brilliant.