1930s Nice for some lights, music and light-hearted funView(s):
Divorce Me Darling, a production by Bishop’s College and S. Thomas College on March 18, 19 and 20 at the Bishop’s College auditorium
Reviewed by Vinusha Paulraj
Trousers for women had only just come into vogue, hats and suits were every gentleman’s staple ensemble. It was the age of the incomparable duo, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
The curtains went up on the dapper 1930s last weekend. Lights, music and divorce took centre stage at the Bishop’s College auditorium when the past pupils of Bishop’s College teamed up with the old boys of S. Thomas’ to present a musical comedy, Divorce Me Darling.
It was a refreshing change from the political satires, adaptations of Greek classics and Broadway renditions, that had hit the stage in recent times. The lesser known of Sandy Wilson’s work, ‘Divorce me Darling’ was being staged for the first time in Colombo by two schools with a reputed tradition of producing strong actors. Colombo audiences responded with alacrity- the show was sold out a week before opening night. It was a nod for the revival of good old vintage musical theatre.
For many in the cast, this was a debut of sorts, as they teamed up with a gathering of well known faces in the theatre scene for this show.
A sequel to Sandy Wilson’s play ‘The Boyfriend’ we meet the girls of Madame Dubonnet’s Finishing School in Nice 10 years later. They have returned as married women, ditching their husbands for a re-union of sorts. Pulling off the exaggerated style of a dated musical is a big ask and we missed the smooth velvety vocals which immortalised the era. The demure start however grew steadier and at the time Polly Brockhurst (played by Dimitri Gunatilake) made an entrance, except for a few shaky notes, the music gathered momentum.
The errant ladies’ find their party is slightly spoiled when some of their husbands are discovered also touring Nice on the sly, while others’ schedules suddenly allow a short vacation.
Foreshadowing the confusion is the incorrigible flirt- Bobby Van Husen (played by Suranthaka Cabraal.) New to the stage, Suranthaka’s take on the debonair American who is slightly drunk at his introduction attracted much attention. Some nifty footwork strengthened his performance.
Adding more than a touch of French drama –much to the audience’s delight – were the two hoteliers at Hotel Du Paradis where the plot unravels. Hortense (played by Shanuki De Alwis) and Gaston (Mevantha De Silva) were undoubtedly the most organic of couples comically musing over the future and going to great lengths to hide their affection from the guests. Their thick French accents made for more than a couple of laughs.
Hanna Van Husen (Sheraya Amaratunge) – sister of Bobby, was a crowd favourite with her talent for pointing out precise shades of lipsticks at inopportune moments, sustained yankee accent and a characteristic snort of laughter. Sheraya’s brawly rendition of “Here Am I- But Where’s the Guy” won many hearts. Eventually Hanna finds a significant other in the timid, mouse-like Sir Freddy Ffotheringtin-Ffitch (played by Oshanthaka Cabraal.)
Dancing girls, sailors and political VIPs made the trip to Nice a reasonably enjoyable one for the audience, enlivened by the vibrant sense of fun the actors seemed to be having. For these past thespians of Bishop’s College and S. Thomas’ College, clearly their return to the stage was a memorable experience.