The Theatreguide.London Review
The Man In The White Suit
Wyndham's Theatre Autumn 2019
The 1951 Ealing Studios
film The Man In The White Suit was a modest, low-key satiric comedy
driven by the amiable performance of Alec Guinness at its centre.
This new stage adaptation is a modest, low-key satiric comedy driven by the amiable performance of Stephen Mangan at its centre.
question facing theatregoers is what the stage version adds to just
watching the movie again. And the answer is not a whole lot.
Mangan is an attractive comic performer, with a special talent for
showing confusion and panic. And because he's a skilled comic
performer, he finds and delivers all the laughs in adapter-director
Sean Foley's script.
Some, including me,
might prefer the Guinness
style of playing a character who didn't know he was in a comedy,
letting us discover the humour rather than underlining it for us.
Mangan is funny, particularly in what on film would be the reaction
shots, the moments when his face and body language show him having to
respond to situations he hadn't expected.
(Just a reminder: in a
Northern mill town mildly dotty scientist invents an indestructible
stain-and-dirt-repelling cloth, and is then surprised when bosses and
workers alike turn on him when they realize no one will ever have to
buy more than one suit.)
Otherwise, Sean Foley's main change is to introduce an onstage skiffle band who play from time to time, generally to cover scene changes or provide an ending for scenes the adapter couldn't write his way out of.
Most of the supporting actors, solid professionals as they may be, give generic by-the-numbers characterisations, and Sue Johnston's sympathetic landlady and Richard Cordery's blustering boss could have been imported bodily from any other show they've been in.
Kara Tointon is attractive as the potential love interest and does keep us guessing whether she's sincerely falling for Mangan's boffin or just using him. A comic seduction dance, with her leading, is a high point of the evening.
Sean Foley is an
experienced director of farce, and so it is a little disappointing
that his blocking and pacing here are so imprecise. An Errol
Flynn-style scene of fighting and derring-do that should be both
exciting and hilarious is played at about half the speed it wants,
with everything not quite tight enough in the choreography.
enjoy this version of The Man In The White Suit? Yes, certainly.
Will you enjoy it more than sitting at home and downloading the movie? I'm not sure.
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