Cocktails with Coward ***1/2

Cocktails with Coward is a delightful afternoon’s distraction, a hodgepodge of music, scenes and monologues written by Noel Coward.  Coward is a great wit and always a pleasure to listen to, but the fact that the two performers in this production are Alistair McGowan and Charlotte Page make the performance all the more fun.

As this is a cabaret, there is no story, and the only theme is to celebrate Coward’s writing.  Coward seems to have become a target of late, with some rubbishing his work and contribution to the English-speaking arts.  McGowan and Page do him justice, proving that Coward really was a smart writer who had a much deeper insight into people and their relationships to one another than many credit.  These pieces range in temperament, mostly very humorous but also containing the occasional dramatic sting.

And McGowan and Page are both a sheer joy.  They revel in the writing, throwing characters on as if they were stylised garments.  They also make it look and sound easy.  There’s no surprise that Page has the finer voice and McGowan is the better actor, but Page also proves herself to be an excellent comedic actor and McGowan has a fairly tuneful voice, thus their talents compliment each other well.

It might be a simple production, but Cocktails with Coward is still great fun.  It may not bring Coward’s critics around, but it will certainly delight those who appreciate intelligence and sophistication in their humour.

Playing at the Assembly Rooms at 16.40 until August 31.

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