Imagine winning a prize that whisks you away from the humdrum of life and the everyday. The kind of prize that offers excitement, opportunity and escapism with a bit of romance thrown in. That’s exactly what happens to lead characters Bet and Al in April in Paris.
Entrenched in the monotony of existence, we join them as they inadvertently expand their horizons thanks to Bet winning in a ‘Romantics Breaks’ competition. Bet enters them for ‘a new life’. Al was sure she wouldn’t win. John Godber’s short observational play is layered with juxtapositions the audience can identify with – humour and depression, love and loathing, hope and pessimism – making the show a thought-provoking watch.
With bags packed and contrasting enthusiasm, Bet and Al head to Paris for their first experience abroad, unsure what to expect. Bet’s heard rumours about the French and Al isn’t sure he’ll find anything to eat there. Will these two opposites find a way to attract again?
We find ourselves embroiled in their adventure, recognising the hilarious depiction of the inept English abroad. From discovering the joys of an all-you-can-eat buffet on the ferry to dodging would-be muggers on the Metro, the jaunt sees them grow as individuals and in terms of their relationship together. They overcome implicit barriers and confront explicit fears on their journey to the heart of ordinary existence.
John Godber’s April in Paris is performed by local society, The Carlton Players. The group are creators of all props, costumes and stage arrangements and show skill in keeping acting at the centre of performance. Directed by David Tolcher, there is as much in the silence between these characters as there is in the sparring, keeping the audience engaged.
There are laughs very early on and you quickly buy in to the characters that Gemma Knox (Bet) and Mike Sanders (Al) expertly deliver. You wouldn’t know that the Carlton players have had a lengthy break between performances or that this is a long-awaited return to the stage when watching. Capturing all the nuances and chemistry of Bet and Al’s relationship, their body language, intonation and facial expressions do as much speaking as the dialogue. In this respect, the acting is reminiscent of that in Ricky Gervais’ Afterlife and The Office.
Riddled with the foibles and the fantastic that make us human, April in Paris provides a darkly humorous evening. Pop along if you want to be transported into someone else’s existence and witness a fly-on-the-wall snapshot of their lives.
The Carlton Players can be found on Twitter and Facebook and are showing April in Paris from 1st – 5th February. https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/birkenhead/the-little-theatre
Reviewer: Ezzy LaBelle
Reviewed: 1st February 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★