La Cage aux Folles at Park Theatre
Immortalised by the amazing Harvey Fierstein as the famed musical, and well known as Mike Nichols’s movie The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, the story of La Cage aux Folles was born as Jean Poiret’s popular 1973 French play, now reworked in Simon Callow’s lively translated adaptation. Directed by Jez Bond, La Cage aux Folles hilariously satirizes our cultural divisions and our methods of attempting to bridge them. Although we have made huge strides in diversity and equality, the narrative continues to be relevant while such divergences still exist.
Georges (Michael Matus) runs a drag queen nightclub in St Tropez in which his long-time lover and partner Albin (Paul Hunter) is the scintillating Madame Zaza, the star attraction. Georges’s son Laurent (Arthur Hughes) – the result of a one-night stand – is engaged to Muriel (Georgina Ambrey), a young woman from a right-wing political family. A prominent politician, her father Monsieur Priedieu (Simon Hepworth) – wryly translating as “pray God” – is against everything the gay couple stand for. To please his son, who wants the parents to meet, Georges invites Laurent’s mother (Sarah Lam) to the get-together, arranging an eccentric façade of conservative “respectability”. When the latter is detained, a slapstick scenario ensues.
Brecht is echoed in the show’s pantomime-like staginess – the players address the audience more than one another and the entire production emphasizes theatricality versus reality. Highly effective in its comedic pace, the piece is brimming with exuberant mirth, never lacking in audience laughter and applause.
All the actors are outstanding in this work and exceptional performances abound: the accomplished Matus is an emphatic and uproarious Georges, and Hunter is ingenious – comedy personified. Syrus Lowe as their “maid” Jocob is full-on fabulously out there and Mark Cameron’s brilliant portrayal of Zorba is priceless.
A primary component, the impressive set morphs from abundant camp vivacity to Georges’s caricatured version of religious conservatism. With remarkable, evocative lighting and inspired costume design, the overall effect is dazzling.
Unlike the spectacular Broadway musical extravaganza, Callow’s translation of the dramatic version of La Cage aux Folles is unrestrained and not afraid to be raunchy. Based on the model of the French farce, the play could be likened to Molière with an LGBT twist. High-spirited and hysterically funny, it is an entertaining romp with an enduringly important social message about tolerating and celebrating our differences.
Photos: Mark Douet
La Cage aux Folles is at Park Theatre from 12th February until 21st March 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.