La Cage Aux Folles (Park Theatre)

Paul Hunter and Louise Bangay in La Cage Aux Folles
Paul Hunter and Louise Bangay in La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles is arguably best known for the musical version by Jerry Herman, but the original play by Jean Poiret promises sequins, sparkle, and a heavy sprinkling of camp.

In this new adaptation by Simon Callow, the characters of Georges (Michael Matus) and Albin (Paul Hunter), middle-aged proprietors of the show club where boys become girls, are sharply defined and give off the comfy air of a couple who have tolerated each other’s quirks for fifteen years.

When Georges’s son Laurent (Arthur Hughes) – product of a curious one-night stand – announces he is to marry the daughter of staunch Christian conservatives, a piece of subterfuge is set in motion that is played for maximum laughs.

Michael Matus, Paul Hunter, Peter Straker in La Cage Aux Folles
Michael Matus, Paul Hunter, Peter Straker in La Cage Aux Folles

From geography to the Greeks, gaiety to a religious painting that doesn’t stand too much close scrutiny, and a crucifix with a life of its own, Tim Shortall’s detailed set pieces and costumes are a delight.

I enjoyed the cartoonish camp of both Jacob (Syrus Lowe) and Albin, scrunching up their bodiesand popping their eyes like Tex Avery characters, and the occasional interjections of M Tabaro (Peter Straker), “I haven’t worn a dress since I got married”.

Jacob’s purring misjudgement with a candle at the family dinner is a hoot, as is his attempt to walk in ordinary shoes, while Albin’s impersonation of what he imagines to be a ftiendly and homely housewife is inspired.

Michael Matus and Paul Hunter in La Cage Aux Folles
Michael Matus and Paul Hunter in La Cage Aux Folles

La Cage Aux Folles displays fun, frolics, frocks and a lot of friendship, as we bounce through the set-up of act one (complete with a butcher who has a surprising obsession with art) and into the riotous and farcical act two, where Laurent’s perspective in-laws get more of an insight into gay Paree than they ever bargained for.

There are so many killer lines in this adapted script. I enjoyed “she must never be allowed to sing The Tart of Toremolinos”, and Georges’s admission that he’d rather “be in the Foreign Legion than the Foreign Office”. The dialogue moves as thick and fast as the surrounding farce, and both cast and direction are superb, with characters effortlessly bringing the Park 200 audience into their world.

Jez Bond directs a marvellous company which also includes Simon Hepworth in two distinct roles, Sarah Lam as Laurent’s mum, and a twitchy Louise Bangay. Matus, Hunter and Lowe steal the acting honours, with the best lines, the most outlandish costumes, and a touch of pathos.

This marvellous and warm revival runs at the Park Theatre until 21 March. Photo credits Mark Douet.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see La Cage Aux Folles.

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