La Cage aux Folles has seen various incarnations over the years – play, stage musical and movies. The Park Theatre has taken it back to the original 1973 play, this time translated and adapted by Simon Callow.
In the Saint Tropez home of couple Georges and Albin Georges’ son, Laurent, is welcomed home, only to reveal that he is getting married. He announces that his fiancée and soon-to-be in-laws are coming to visit imminently, but his future father-in-law is a staunchly right-wing politician who campaigns against all things homosexual. This is a slight problem as Georges owns the drag club downstairs where Albin is the star attraction.
Mayhem ensues as everyone tries to remove all traces of the unorthodox abode in an attempt to appear conventional. Rococo elements, nude statues and feather boas are replaced by a spartan interior style, complete with Christ on a crucifix!
Laurent’s mother is called upon to play her part in the deception but when she is late to arrive Albin adapts his drag persona to become Georges wife.
Can they pull it off?
Michael Matus is wonderful as Georges, trying to hold everything together and deny his true self for the love and happiness of his son. Paul Hunter as Albin goes full on diva for us, in both sequinned gowns and matronly attire.
They are attended to by Syrus Lowe as the flamboyant Jacob, divinely decadent in gold-sequinned miniscule shorts.
Inevitably the desperate façade crumbles and with the paparazzi in hot pursuit of a conservative politician in a drag club they need an exit plan, pronto!
If your only experience of the play has been in the guise of the Hollywood movie The Birdcage then you may feel that the format has been taken down a peg or two here; but Robin Williams and Nathan Lane leave big shoes to fill. Try to put that aside and enjoy this on its own merits.
Some areas are a little weak – the grand reveal finale could do with some adjustments. It would have more impact if the actors were to change costumes off stage then make an entrance, rather than changing on stage in a somewhat disorganised fashion. However, if you go along with an open mind and ready for laughter you should leave happily chuckling.
So many freedoms are taken for granted today but in the early 1970s this would have been a brave production. To portray a gay couple as a happy family, complete with child, would have been seen as audacious in many circles. Comedy is to be applauded, and it definitely will be here, but this play is also a reminder of how far society has come, and that we may still have room for improvement.
Original Author: Jean Poiret
Adapted by: Simon Callow
Directed by: Jez Bond
Produced by: Rachael Williams and Adam Blanshay
Box Office: 020 7870 6876
Booking Link: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/la-cage-aux-folles-the-play
Booking Until: 21 March 2020