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Review: Harlequinade / All On Her Own

Harlequinade / All On Her Own is a fabulous double bill, directed by Kenneth Branagh and playing at the Garrick Theatre. Opening with an emotionally engaging piece (All On Her Own) and then moving to a light comedy (Harlequinade), this production stands out against self-indulgence and proves that you don't necessarily need epic proportions to make a superb West End show.

All On Her Own is a short piece presenting the internal conflict of a widow. It features Zoe Wanamaker as its one and only cast member, giving her plenty of room to exhibit an exception level of versatility. Contrasting Harlequinade, All On Her Own displays exquisitely the vulnerability of its protagonist, without being too intense or at all over the top.

Surprisingly, considering the tragic context of All On Her Own, the piece is at times very witty. The pace is significantly supported by these interjections of relief – All On Her Own comes across strongly as 'short but sweet'. This is also due to the flawless performance of Zoe Wanamaker – with nothing and nobody other than her holding together the piece, she still manages to engage the audience from start to finish. She makes this impressive feat look effortless, and portrays the troubled character of Rosemary in such an intimate and believable way that it is hard not to become quite attached.

All On Her Own – a lovely start to a lovely evening – is followed by Harlequinade, the longer and more significant of the two plays. Harlequinade is a wonderful piece of comedy, following the story of a theatre company prior to the opening night of their production of Romeo and Juliet. It disproves the belief that all West End shows have to be either breathtakingly sad or laugh-until-your-sides-are-splitting funny – Harlequinade is a very relaxed comedy: silly but not annoying; fun and, above all, witty.

Harlequinade, much like All On Her Own, is extremely engaging. It keeps up a good pace and quick wit, in a sort of comedy of chaos. There is always plenty going on, with lots of quirky sub-plots and deviations, so that the play seems to fly by in a whirl of amusing sketches. And Harlequinade is superbly British – full of sarcasm, facetiousness, and of people trying to be polite.

The cast of Harlequinade are all extremely impressive. I sort of expected Kenneth Branagh and Zoe Wanamaker to steal to show, but in fact they were just two of the many fantastic actors to impress me in this production. In particular, Tom Bateman, who really carries the whole play along, and Miranda Raison, an endless source of comedy, are a delight to watch. But the whole cast are absolutely flawless – in fact, it would be worth going to see Harlequinade for the cast alone.

All in all, this double-bill is a delightful and engaging exhibition of wonderful wit and fantastic acting. I would recommend this production to anybody looking for a great evening of light entertainment. It is playing at the Garrick Theatre until the 13th January next year.



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