Grass wasn’t greener in inoffensive’ revival

PUBLISHED: 16:11 14 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:24 16 August 2010

THAT pressing old problem of how to keep one s stately home in tip-top condition was tackled last week in a revival of The Grass is Greener at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley

THAT pressing old problem of how to keep one's stately home in tip-top condition was tackled last week in a revival of The Grass is Greener at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, writes Mark Campbell.

Hugh and Margaret Williams' 1956 comedy covers much the same ground as William Douglas Home's Lloyd George Knew My Father, which coincidentally appeared at the same theatre earlier this year.

But whereas Lloyd George still had plenty of life in it, this one feels rather like a patient on his deathbed.

Old-fashioned in the worst sense of the word, The Grass is Greener is the sort of thing you might find on Channel 4 on a wet Sunday afternoon (in fact it was later made into a film starring Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum).

The only reason I can think of for producer Bill Kenwright to revive it is that it is ferociously inoffensive.

Hilary (Liza Goddard) and Victor (Christopher Cazenove) live in a grand country house with their strangely non-deferential butler Sellars (Giles Fagan).

Having had to open their home to the public in order to raise money, one afternoon Hilary bumps into American tourist Charles (Jack Ellis) and falls head-over-heels in love with him.

Charles is a billionaire, and Victor - knowing immediately what is afoot - thinks it advisable that she should spend a few months with him until their affair runs it course.

Having discovered that the grass is not so green on the other side, Hilary could then return to Victor and life would potter on as before.

As the crusty but worldly wise husband, Christopher Cazenove was ideal in a role that required jovial insouciance throughout, even when shot during an offstage duel.

As his wife, Liza Goddard played the same slightly hysterical, wide-eyed version of herself that she has always played.

Jack Ellis, best known for playing a nasty warder in TV series Bad Girls, was the surprise hit of the night.

Sporting a convincing New York accent and playing his part with the utmost gravity, he was a sympathetic and believable figure.

Contrast that with Hattie, Victor's old flame played by Sophie Ward, who screamed 'walking cliché' from the moment she entered.

A sub-plot about a mink coat (shades of Roald Dahl's short story Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat) and a few good jokes in the second half, together with the aforementioned duel, lifted proceedings a little.

But really this was one revival that didn't need reviving.

* The Rocky Horror Show is now showing at The Churchill until October 17. Call the box office on 0844 871 7620.

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