Sorry, but I loved this Capra-esque romantic tale

Review by Paul Nelson

 

It is not often that I get the chance to review a romantic comedy. Particularly one in the Fringe Theatre that can actually hold a candle to the great Hollywood romantic comedies as explored and presented with great aplomb by such greats as Capra and Cukor.

Think I'm kidding? Okay, read on.

With Sorry, I Love You, by John Goodrum, the leading light (I do believe) of Rumpus Theatre Co, we have one of the most refreshing and delightful romantic comedy plays that I have seen in many a year. It did my heart good, as well as my lungs, for I laughed heartily throughout.

The play starts with the break-up of Helen's love affair, when she has packed her bags and left. There seem to be no hard feelings on the part of her lover. He chucks her CD player and all her CDs out of the window at her as she struggles with the suitcase she has hurriedly packed with a few simple things (plus, significantly, her Teddy bear).

Obviously here, we have a romantic, a cuddlesome creature, probably cruelly scorned, and our sympathy goes out to her. Even in her distressed state, she finds it within her heart to give a tramp a couple of quid for a coffee and sandwich.

Ending up in a caff with an abominable Italian waiter, who having asked what she wants, gives her what he thinks is good for her, the tramp turns up and having heard her story, wishes her well, performing a bit of mumbo jumbo that no one believes, certainly not the audience or Helen.

Miraculously, in walks a dreamboat, Julian (Jools). He is a handsome guy and in the same state as Helen. His wife and he cannot see eye to eye and have parted.

He is a toy maker. Well, not exactly, he designs them. He gives Helen a cyber baby. (is this a precursor of a future designation?). When it cries, press the right button and it will tell you whether it wants feeding, changing, cuddling or whatever. It is a small token roughly the size of a watch (is this significant?).

Jools and his wife have parted. He is about to go around the world on a promo tour for his toy. He has other ideas for toys up his sleeve, and it isn't long before we discover that one of the toys could well be Helen.

She submits to his suggestion to join him on his world tour, well anyway to the first port of call. This turns out to be so successful that eventually, during the check-in to other hotels on the tour, it becomes a natural thing to change the single booked room into a double and at the end of the tour they return to London idyllically in love.

Jools has kids. Between them, he and Helen devise a way to spend time with the children so that they are not disturbed by the fact that she is not their mother, but Helen becomes increasingly jealous that he spends so much time with his still undivorced wife, and they split. The split is very upsetting for both of them.

Shattered, she returns to the caff where they first met.

I can't hold this back any longer; the tramp is there, tells her a few home truths and reveals he is her guardian angel. Telling her Jools will turn up in about ten seconds, and the future will all depend on her, he melts away, and lo, Jools is there and as they hungrily kiss, all problems resolved, the curtain falls.

I'm a sucker for this kind of thing.

As I said earlier, it would take a Capra or a Cukor, but these days, thankfully we have Goodrum, who also directs. Where are the managements who moan there are no good new plays? Were they in the theatre as I was?

Where are the agents who say there is little talent about these days? Did they think that Wimbledon is not the place to be talent scouting? Certainly these days the West End is not where you will find talent. I have seen better performances from young actors in Fringe Theatre than I have ever seen of late in the upper echelons of the West End theatre.

For the record, Helen is played with true Hollywood Capra/Cukor feminine thrills by Susan Earnshaw.

Jools, a handsome bobbydazzler, but one with the sincerity of a Clarke Gable, provides a super vehicle for Oliver Hume who is great in the part. If you want to fall in love, cry at his character's plight, laugh at his joy, he is the man for you.

However good these two are, and believe me they are really good, watch Nick Wyatt as the tramp. Along with a myriad of other roles, the Italian waiter, the Heathrow check-in man, an air stewardess, various hotel clerks (including a Scouse who works in Tokyo!), a Russian, an American, a zoo keeper, you name it (he also commands a scene set in a disco to thunderous applause), the character finally reveals himself to be her GA.

This is the first time I have been delighted to watch the players changing the scenery - before your very eyes! The setting, by John B Scattergood, is a series of cubes and boxes, and you are absorbed as to what shape they will create next. I normally moan at the idea of the cast resetting the play and thereby holding up the action. This one is the exception.

I couldn't have liked it more.

Highly recommended, as indeed is everything done by Rumpus Theatre Co. Their last one, I can hardly believe it, was The Pit and the Pendulum which had my hair standing. This one had me standing - and applauding.

Sorry, I Love You written by John Goodrum. Presented by Rumpus Theatre Company. Featuring Susan Earnshaw (Helen), Nick Wyatt (the Tramp), Oliver Hume (Jools). Designer John B Scattergood, Lighting Keith Tuttle, Sound recording and design David Gilbrook, Stage Manager Matt Hooban. Directed by John Goodrum.