Presented by Independent Theatre
Reviewed 10 April 2021
With their usual detailed set, looking very much as I imagine French Guiana might look, the effect was not aided by the fact it was extremely cold in the theatre. However, the heat was apparent on stage thanks to the fine acting, and this charming 1930s play, by Sam and Bella Spewack, lived up to Independent’s standards.
Set in the back room of the Duchotel’s General Store in Cayenne, French Guiana, the action centres around three convicts from the prison colony who are repairing the roof. The trio are murderers but given some liberty to work on the island. Leighton Vogt (Joseph), Stuart Pearce (Jules) and Eddie Sims (Alfred) inhabit their characters well and work well as a convincing unit. Mostly friendly and polite, they can be threatening and, at times, sinister, but win the audiences hearts.
The store is run by Felix and his wife Emilie who are played by Greg Janzow and Lyn Wilson. Janzow is a slightly distracted shopkeeper who is more scared of his boss than the convicts and is happy to let the men take over. Wilson plays his exasperated spouse; both are protective of their love-struck daughter Marie-Louise (Emma Bleby). She is charmed by the convicts, unlike her object of desire Paul Cassagnon (Henry Bleby Williams) who arrives accompanying the owner Gaston Lemare (David Roach). Roach’s commanding stage presence gives Lemare the gravitas the character needs.
The convicts help with customer service, cook the Christmas meal and arrange a few ‘accidents’ to improve the lot of the family, all carried out with humour and good intentions.
Minor characters of Mme Parole and Lieutenant Espoir are played by Loretta Schar and Gabe Mangelsdorf, both making their first appearances with Independent. This gentle comedy is a great introduction.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Goodwood Theatre
Season: 9-17 April
Duration: 2.5 hr
Tickets: $20 – $37.50