sarah and joe

Sarah Earnshaw as Bet and Joe Pasquale as Al enjoying April in Paris

April in Paris

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry


All the stars in the night sky are richly deserved for this production, if only for being the ONLY professional stage show outside London. However, quite reasonably, the small but perfectly formed audience cheered to the rafters; it was a perfect re-introduction to the theatre.

The play? The perfect and prophetic choice for Britain in financial trouble and many families facing redundancy and up to their eyes in debt. John Godber’s ‘April in Paris’ is a two-hander comedy for Joe Pasquale as Al and Sarah Earnshaw as Bet.

 Their marriage is a tad stale with Al newly redundant from a construction career and Bet’s shoe shop job in jeopardy. But her skill at magazine competitions builds a new dynamic and the pair win a ‘romantic’ one-night break to Paris which changes their view of each other and the world. Their everyday experience of the de-industrialising north of England is exchanged for a brief glimpse of the glamour of Paris.

What’s charming is how each of them portray their change of heart, towards each other, their marriage and their lives. Al says to Bet, as they stand in Notre Dame, if this is it why aren’t we nicer to each other?

She dances, he risks Steak Tartar, they chance the Metro at night and the Louvre, together they attempt some awkward and long-overdue conversations that set them off on a new course that’s less confrontational and more co-operative. Al’s hobby in art is also improving and his version of the Mona Lisa is brilliant!

It’s a beautifully simple set that allows the play, the characters and the action to shine through. The action is also beautifully simple and achieved mostly by moving chairs to show changes of scene. Paris with bike, onions and accordions with a backdrop of the French flag is also simply achieved. Music adds context and I felt like joining in as Bet’s joy at being able to dance is so freely expressed.

Did it feel safe? Yes. Welcomed at the door by name, everyone masked, and it sets off, for me, Coventry’s year as City of Culture beautifully. It was the loveliest thing to see the lights back up.

Gold stars all round to all concerned. Directed by Richard Lewis of Limelight Productions it runs to 19-05-21. 

Jane Howard


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