Nicola Harvey enjoys a musical evening at the Theatre Royal Bath
Salad Days is on this week at the Theatre Royal. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s set in the early 1950s and follows Tim and Jane, recent graduates from a university that felt suspiciously like Cambridge who are at a loose end in London while they (or rather their indomitable mothers) find themselves something productive to do.
While they try and work this out, they come across a tramp who pays them to look after a magic piano that makes everyone dance when it plays. The plot is as crazy as it sounds and it is as well to know that before the start of the play so as to avoid waiting for it all to come together and make sense!
If you know this from the start, you will enjoy a light, frothy and sweet piece of musical theatre, with some competent, enjoyable, if not spectacular, dancing. However, I will be honest… I found it frustrating that it lacked a coherent plot and struggled to suspend my disbelief. This is not anyone’s fault; the acting was good, with moments of crisp physicality and appropriate to the piece, and I really did enjoy the band on stage and the fact that several members of the cast played both Minnie, the magic piano, and another larger one..
A scene in the nightclub was also great fun, with the comically least enthusiastic Egyptian style dancer ever to grace a stage. It’s just that, I felt that there were opportunities, even within the style of the piece, for more believable emotional depth and character development. Jane and Tim’s relationship moves through innocent friendship to something deeper, and this could have presented in a far more charming, endearing way rather than with the superficial treatment it received.
On the positive side, there’s little doubt that lovers of Salad Days, who apparently count Her Majesty the Queen amongst their numbers, would love this production. Certainly, there were lots of affectionate sounding laughs coming from the audience.
It is also very much a summer piece, with a grass carpeted stage, picnic rugs and bunting forming the main set. It transferred from a summer run in London to fill a tricky gap in scheduling caused by the unavoidable pulling of Love Letters. As such, it couldn’t help but feel like an incongruous choice, but certainly better than a gap in the schedule.
Salad Days plays at the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 12th to Saturday 16th September