Thursday, 10 June 2010

Two Sisters Devonshire Park Eastbourne Review

Two Sisters
Devonshire Park Eastbourne
Performances only on
10,11 and 17th June
(performance seen 10th June)

Cast (alphabetical order)
Rika    Paola Dionisotti
Edith       Anita Dobson

Two Sisters is part of The Devonshire Park Theatre's New Play Festival. The festival of 4 new plays Reeling, Joe Ho Ho, Two Sisters and Swimming at the Ritz is from 8-19th June. With each play only getting a few performances there's not much time to see those that interest you.

I'll be honest here. My reason for wanting to see this particular play was not so much the plays content but more for the quality and reputation of the actresses performing it.

Paola DionisottiItalian born Paola Dionisotti has a massive list of acting credits to her name, both in the theatre and on TV. I could be typing forever but First Among Equals, Forever Green, Midsomer Murders and Peak Practice are just a few of the TV shows she has appeared in. Her history on the stage is equally as impressive with the emphasis being on the more serious side of acting such as Orpheus, Richard II and King Lear. Whilst Paola has appeared in a few movies, either by fate or preference, she has spent far more of her time on the stage or small screen. She is an incredible actress with an equally incredible history.

Anita DobsonAnd then there's the lovely Anita Dobson. The last time Anita appeared in Eastbourne was back in 2008 at The Congress Theatre in the musical "Hello Dolly". In that production she played Dolly Levi impeccably. Like Paola, Anita has a formidable list of TV, movie and film credits to her name however she will always be primarily associated with her role in Eastenders as Angie Watts, long suffering wife of "Dirty Den" (Leslie Grantham). Anita has another incredible talent though and that is being a profoundly friendly person. I am sure anybody who happens to read this who has met Anita in the past would agree that she is one of the most down to earth, genuine, people in the public eye you could ever wish to meet.

So we went to this play not knowing whether we would actually enjoy it or not - to be honest we didn't even read what it was about, apart from the blatantly obvious, Two Sisters.

The story itself isn't at all complicated. Two sisters, both in their 70's finally get to know each other better and to learn the full truth about their past. Anita plays Rika ,the younger sister, aged 71 (I hasten to add that's the character's age not Anita's!), Paola plays a very fit 75 year old named Edith. As you may guess, to make the story more interesting, both these Jewish sisters differ greatly in their opinions and traits, their likes and dislikes and their views on life. Or do they?

The music for the play was composed by Anita's husband, Brian May, who came to support his wife on this opening night (one autograph I certainly didn't expect to get that night!).

Actually this Israel based play is extremely good. It gives both these extremely experienced actresses the chance to display every conceivable emotion. There's plenty of laughter balanced by an equal amount of sadness. As truths of the present are revealed, lies from the past are exposed.

You can never be sure until the finale whether it has a happy or sad ending and I'm not going to tell you here either.

Two Sisters has the mother of all scripts for both actresses to try and remember. I have to say for opening night not a single line appeared to be forgotten or stumbled on. It just goes to show how professional these two artistes are.
Is there a downside to this play? Yes and from others in the audience muttering in the interval they agreed with us.

The first half is painfully long. An hour and a quarter just seems to be 15-20 minutes too much. No matter how good the script and acting is you seem to be conscious that it is time for a break. I hate that moment in a play when you just feel you have to look at your watch.

As my wife pointed out there is an opportunity in the first half when Rika goes off to bed. This would actually have been the ideal time for the safety curtain to fall. There are too many plays where the first half appears to drag and this does detract from the enjoyment of the production, no matter how good it may be.

One other minor point is regarding the set which is a simple set based on an Israeli apartment. Theres nothing wrong with the set in itself but I did find the lack of "glass" in the large balcony doors distracting. It reminded me of that carry on film (Carry on abroad?) where Sid James is in the apartment where the whole hotel is still being built. I kept thinking "Why bother opening the door when you can step straight through it?". Investing in some cheap perspex would make a huge difference.

These are the only points I can pick up on in this Ninon Jerome directed play. Both these well known actresses deliver the superior performances you would expect and they make the sisters' stories very believable.

By the time I've written this you haven't got long to see Paola and Anita during their short stay in Eastbourne. So if you want to see two brilliant actresses deliver two incredible performances from a mammoth script don't miss that final performance on Thursday 17th June at 7.45pm (Box Office is 01323 412000).

4 out of 5 for Two Sisters
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