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Review: La Cage Aux Folles (The Play), at Park Theatre

Pitch-perfect repartee in Simon Callow’s adaptation of camp classic set around a drag club in the south of France

27 February, 2020 — By Clair Chapwell

Michael Matus and Paul Hunter in La Cage Aux Folles (The Play). Photo: Mark Douet

THIS loveable camp classic is a winner of a show.

Georges (Michael Matus), owner of La Cage aux Folles, a drag club in the south of France, lives in a state of constant seething, affectionate fury with life-partner Albin (Paul Hunter), a sulky ageing drag queen and star of the club.

Raised by the pair, Georges’ son, the flagrantly heterosexual Laurent (Arthur Hughes) returns to their lavish flat-above-the-club to announce his engagement to the daughter of a right-wing politician. He desperately wants his father to “straighten up his life” for a few days and encourages him to ask transvestite Albin to make himself scarce.

The pitch-perfect repartee is faultless and director Jez Bond handles the farce deftly.

The adaptation by Simon Callow retains the French flavour and honours the original play by Jean Poiret, written nearly 50 years ago.

Matus and Hunter are a joy to watch. They are joined in their games by their outrageous queen, and sometime cook, Jacob (Syrus Lowe) wearing a variation of feathered glittery hotpants.

The show is peppered with “turns” including one from the local butcher (Mark Cameron) as Albin attempts to be a “real man”.

The farce is top class. However, the play needs to work on two levels: the audience need to believe that Georges is so committed to the relationship with his son that he would sacrifice everything for his most beloved child. Laurent basically asks him: For four days, I need you to be normal. Deny your sexuality, your partner, your identity, for me, for your son.

When all the feathers and glitter are stripped away, this is the central tension of the play. In Bond’s production that tension is slightly drowned in sparkle.

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