Heroic Humour at the Playhouse

Number 10 in Timms Times
Don’t be fooled — have a laugh. Heroes, a comedy featuring three old French army officers, might not seem to promise much. But tonight’s performance at Cheltenham Playhouse had its audience tittering and belly laughing by turns. The play has a relevance to all ages — following your dreams can make life worth living, however simple, distant, escapist, or crazy the dreams may be.

Originally called Les Vent des Peupliers (The Wind in the Poplars), and translated by Tom Stoppard, the play shows the three heroes dreaming of escaping to poplar trees on a distant hill. An early endearing and funny moment is when Gustave (David Wheeler) and Philippe (John Morgan) sway in imitation of the poplar trees, spied through binoculars. The two men feel imprisoned in a retirement home run by nuns, and plan an escape with the reluctant but hilarious involvement of sardonic Henri (Mike Charlton).

The main stumbling block is a large stone dog statue, Max, who becomes the fourth character, and probably the heaviest, in the play. Idealist dreamer Gustave writes a journal entry on behalf of Max and the latter’s desire to be part of the escape. Philippe swears that the dog (created by Jo Jenks) actually moves. The play is crazy enough to convince the audience at one point that Philippe is right.

While dealing with setbacks and moments of elation or madness, the characters come out with superb one-liners and running gags, typical of Stoppard’s polished humour. All three actors deliver their lines — and hilarious antics and silences — with panache. Altogether, the Playhouse Company’s production, directed by Rod Morris, makes an engaging and rib-tickling evening. Heroes runs until March 22, with tickets from the Playhouse box office on 01242 522852.

Review of performance on March 19, 2014.

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