Guest Review by Terry Eastham @Terry_Ea ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “Outstanding Acting” for @TheatreVoliere CONSOLATION @BridewellCentre  

As Nietzsche said ‘To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering’ and as humans we are always searching for those meanings to life that do not spring instantly to mind. And in Mick Wood’s Consolation” playing at the Bridewell Theatre we come to see what happens when that search for an answer gets out of hand.

In an old castle in Southern France a young man arrives for work. He looks troubled and, like most of us, not keen to start the working day. His name is Raymond (Danny Solomon) and he is a re-enactor in the visitors centre of the castle. He plays a 13th Century knight in slightly faded chain mail as he tells the story of The Cathars alone. In the audience this day is a middle aged English woman by the name of Carol (Holly Joyce). Both of these souls are very troubled. Raymond has problems in his personal life, despises his job attempting to teach history to dis-engaged tourists and dreams of being a ‘real’ actor one day. Carol has moved to this part of France because thanks to the wonders of regression therapy (and yes, there may be some sarcasm in that line) she believes she has returned to her home where she was a Troubadour, also in the 13th Century with an unrequited love for the lady of the castle. The two of them meet and strike up an acquaintance that at times is funny, highly emotional and ultimately positive for both of them as they each deal with their issues, both real and imagined and come to accept their respective lives for what they really are.

Sometimes a show is easy to review. Within a few moments you know that you are going to enjoy the experience and “Consolation” is just such a show. This lovely two-hander has so many things going for it that it’s almost impossible to know where to start. So let’s go with the acting. Danny Solomon was absolutely outstanding as Raymond. I have no idea if he is really French or not but if he isn’t then I doff my cap to his ability to produce a convincing French accent for nearly three hours – not only speaking a wonderful sort of English but also, particularly on the telephone – charging through his conversations in fast, fluent French. Not only was Raymond’s accent great but he really seemed to bring out all of the best qualities of a young French man with ambition. Charm, grace and a wonderful, almost instinctive sense of comedic timing made Raymond such a believable character to watch. However, no matter how good Raymond was, he was easily matched by the truly amazing performance of Holly Joyce as Carol, a woman who desperately wants to believe she has found the answer to all of life’s woes but in her heart of hearts knows the truth. At any moment, Carol could change from being a normal, middle aged woman, to being a young, highly vulnerable girl, a flirty little thing, the ultimate Mrs Sensible or even a Cougar on the hunt. There are some wonderful moments with technology – she Skype’s her son and his girlfriend (played on video by Tom Grace and Nathalie Barclay) – which reminded me so much of my own mother. In fact everything about Carol screamed authenticity, We‘ve all met a Carol in our lives and Holly’s portrayal of the character made her instantly recognisable and likeable and her relationship and verbal sparring with Raymond was a pleasure to watch.

The story itself is complicated and yet never loses its audience. There are many themes running through it mental health, family loyalty, the fragility of belief, hopes and dreams to name but a few and all of these get explored in fine style. Director Natasha Wood makes fabulous use of the Bridewell’s performing space using a very minimal set (just some blocks and a back projection video) by Rūta Irbīte, to create the various areas where Raymond and Carol interact, and this is perfect as it leaves the audience free to concentrate on the superb performances and script. I spent the whole of the interval trying to work out where the play was going to end up – there were so many different ways it could have gone. As it happened I was wrong and the ending came as a surprise which, with the benefit of hindsight, I realise was ultimately the only one it could have had.

Finally then, “Consolation” is a complex play that will hold grab your attention right from the start and not let it go until you have gone through Raymond and Carol’s journey and leave the theatre wishing both of them every happiness in their lives ahead.
 

Guest Review by Terry Eastham @Terry_Ea ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “Outstanding Acting” for @TheatreVoliere CONSOLATION @BridewellCentre 

library_books