Palace Theatre, Watford
Opened 11 March, 1992

At little over an hour and a half including interval and several flamenco interludes, it'd have to be special to entice London punters out to the end of the Metropolitan fine. It nearly is.

Oliver Parker is pleasantly Jeremy Sindenesque as an aristocratic suitor with a wardrobeful of disguises; Lee Cornes, as the Count's devious manservant, has his vaudevillometer set at "Endearing" rather than "Glutinous". Ranjit Bolt, deprived of his impressive arsenal of verse firecrackers, plays instead with the theatrical conventions permeating Beaumarchais's prose, unable as ever to resist leaving his cheeky mark upon the text at one point even throwing in a line from King Lear.

Lou Stein's direction takes this ball and runs with it, creating a liberal sprinkling of business-gags (notably some laughably implausible guitar-playing). As romantic heroine Rosine, though, Helena Bonham-Carter is distractingly awkward in comedy, never freeing herself from inhibited composure. The Barber is part of a consistently intriguing season at Watford, and is certainly entertaining enough, but it's not quite... vital.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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