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Kiss Me, The Other Palace – Review

Pros: Great jokes and a wonderful heroine

Cons: The bits of slo-mo physical theatre don’t add much

Pros: Great jokes and a wonderful heroine Cons: The bits of slo-mo physical theatre don't add much The narrative holds few surprises, but Kiss Me is a beautiful chamber piece that draws you in with the warmth and complexity of its two characters, Stephanie and Dennis. Stephanie was a young bride and now, in the aftermath of World War I, is a young widow. With most of the young men gone, she enjoys doing a man’s work, driving a truck, but she also knows she’s not top pick in the bridal market, and she wants a baby. Dennis is…

Summary

Rating

Good

Sweet and funny, with plenty of insight and sensitivity

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The narrative holds few surprises, but Kiss Me is a beautiful chamber piece that draws you in with the warmth and complexity of its two characters, Stephanie and Dennis. Stephanie was a young bride and now, in the aftermath of World War I, is a young widow. With most of the young men gone, she enjoys doing a man’s work, driving a truck, but she also knows she’s not top pick in the bridal market, and she wants a baby. Dennis is a part-time, but prolific, sperm donor.

All the action takes place in Stephanie’s small bedsit, with landlady Mrs Mitchell safely away at the pictures. A simple set of bed, chair, cabinet and hatstand takes us there although, loathe to say a word against the lovely studio at The Other Palace, I couldn’t help feeling that one of London’s smaller, dingier black box theatres might have conjured bedsitland more convincingly.

It’s an obviously excruciating situation which Dennis, dutifully following the rules of sperm donation, tries to manage by maintaining polite professional boundaries. He is foiled in this by Stephanie, whose defence mechanism is compulsive, unguarded and frequently hilarious chatter. Stephanie Booth gives an utterly delightful performance as Stephanie, capturing her gawky self-consciousness, as well as her defiant self-sufficiency (in all matters but this!) George Readshaw meanwhile, does a nice job of gradually defrosting Dennis.

Richard Bean’s dialogue is delivered at a speed that does both actors credit. At times, it’s almost too snappy to be credible, but it does pack an impressive number of laughs, and delicately paints a vivid picture of the period between the wars. There are Tudor jokes and sex jokes, late husband jokes and feminism jokes; often unexpected, but always good-natured. And running throughout, a good deal of pathos and indignation, as the misery and injustice of Stephanie’s situation become clear.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable hour in the company of two likeable characters; both recognisably of their time, but each subversive in their own way. The story is, apparently, based loosely on true events, and while it’s easy to believe that this sort of thing went on behind closed doors, it’s hard to imagine it was as funny as this.

Author: Richard Bean
Director: Katharine Farmer
Booking until: This show has now ended its run

About Clare Annamalai

Clare Annamalai
A commercial manager in the pharma industry, Clare dreams of doing something a bit more luvvy. She has a degree in English & French from Oxford University, and is a qualified translator. When she’s not driving thermometer sales she’s probably driving her daughters to yet another birthday party, or cleaning out the hamster. So if she occasionally slopes off for a sneaky theatre fix, it’s really the least she deserves. Her preference is for shows where she can sit down and not be expected to participate in any way at all.