Most of our reviews are re-printed with kind permission of the Knutsford Guardian

knutsford Little Theatre

Many people will have seen The Odd Couple. After all, it has been a play, a film and a TV series. However, it was news to me that Neil Simon had updated his original play with a female version. Oscar and Felix become Olive and Florence, the boys’ nights in become girls’ nights in and the card games become Trivial Pursuit sessions. What remains though is the razor sharp wit and high jinks typical of a Neil Simon comedy.

The curtains open and we are, once again, overwhelmed by an outstanding set. They are fortunate at Knutsford Little Theatre to have such a large stage area and they certainly make the very best use of it in this wonderful representation of a New York apartment. Don’t dwell on the set too long though, because it is straight into the action and the first of those Trivial Pursuit sessions, with the laughs coming at a quick fire rate. The performances sparkle from the beginning. Tina Buckley captures the slovenly Olive brilliantly. She is a slob and proud of it! She serves her guests warm soft drinks and green sandwiches from her broken refrigerator and heaven help anyone who complains. This opening scene firmly establishes the companionship and repartee enjoyed by this group of old friends and everyone plays their part in this with gusto. Lilian Atkinson is Mickey, a tough cop who does things by the book and sticks to the rules. Jill Brown is Renee, a gossipy story teller with a tendency to think the worse. Tina-Jane Haigh is the wise cracking Sylvie who tries to bring a sense of proportion to a crisis and Chris Race is Vera, a naïve innocent who drives the others to distraction with her ineptitude. As we enjoy the banter exhibited by these five accomplished performers, our attention is drawn to the one person missing from the group, and the tension builds nicely before Florence finally makes her entrance.

So, here we have the odd couple. The confident, take-me-as-you-find-me Olive is, through circumstances beyond her control, mismatched with the fastidious, nervous, unsure-of-herself Florence Unger.  It is crucial to the success of the production that the actresses in these roles have a chemistry between them and these two do not disappoint. The transition from old friends in need of a bit of company to bickering old couple is expertly handled and Lesley Hornsby excels as the obsessive stickler for detail who would try the patience of a saint. In a desperate attempt to remedy the situation Olive invites male company, in the form of Jesus and Manola, a pair of Spanish brothers, on a double date. These are relatively small roles but are played by Daniel Dorey and Pete Blain with a relish that makes for a very memorable scene. As the cast all gather together for the dramatic conclusion, we are reminded that the very best of friends can make the very worst of roommates.

Knutsford Little Theatre has a reputation for productions of the highest standard and director Sean Duvall has assembled a cast and created an ambience that means that this one is sure to please. The plays runs from Wednesday 9th to Saturday 12th of April.