THEATRE REVIEW: Belgrade reopens triumphantly with the sweet joys of April in Paris

Nick Le Mesurier reviews April in Paris at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 9:28 am
Sarah Earnshaw and Joe Pasquale in April in Paris (photo: Mark Senior)
Sarah Earnshaw and Joe Pasquale in April in Paris (photo: Mark Senior)

It’s good to be back! After more than a year in which theatres have been legally closed, the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry notched up another triumph by being the first outside London to offer live professional theatre indoors.

And what a show! April in Paris is a sweet, feelgood play, perfect for the occasion.

Al (Joe Pasquale) and Bet (Sarah Earnshaw) are a middle-aged couple whose marriage has gone stale. He has been made redundant; she gets by on a few shifts a week in a shoe shop. Their lives are characterised by bickering and gloom. Their one ray of hope lies in the competitions she enters. When she wins a romantic break for two in Paris it seems more of a threat than a promise. There’s the boat trip. And the funny food. And the foreigners to contend with.

April in Paris gently plays with all the stereotypes of Brits abroad. He is terrified by a French loo, she gets drunk on the boat out. Yet through it all a ray of sunshine turns into a blazing hot day as the thrill of Paris helps them find themselves and each other again.

The twist comes with Ed’s ability as an amateur artist. I won’t reveal how a certain bit of stage trickery works, but it perfectly embodies the love that still beats in their hearts.

With two such experienced actors on stage this was always going to be a safe bet. Brits are good at laughing at themselves, and this comedy, first produced in 1992 and adapted for a post-Brexit world does so gently, so that the stereotypes are not so much sins as sweet follies.

* April in Paris runs until May 19. Visit belgrade.co.uk/events/april-in-paris to book.