(Role: Anton the smuggler)
Bridge of Sighs, a new comedy by Thomas Muschamp, which had its première at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, last night, is a richly-inventive semi-fantasy, set on a bridge, "a frontier post somewhere between the Baltic and the Ægean."
Its two principal characters, frontier guards as united by their professionalism as they must be politically opposed "by order of higher authority," find their relative peace shattered when two young refugees sneaking on to the bridge in a moment of military consolation with the aid of vodka and schnapps, proceed to found, in the neutral territory, a new state - and forthwith to provide it with its first new citizens in the form of twins.
The zealous endeavours of the International Red Cross in the form of an American senator's wife (what a splendid performance to add to Cherry Morris's galaxy of them at the Belgrade) and of the United Nations Organisation (Peter Palmer as the very epitome of Mr. Bannerjee from Calcutta) set confusion fairly flying: through it all drives smuggler Anton, Alan Howard poetically defending the gentlemen of the night. And when I say drives, I mean it quite literally; towards the end one feared that the company was about to challenge with a bubble-car, the telephone kiosk-capacity record set by students.
It will be apparent that this is a joyfully-anarchic play, sent spanking along by James Roose Evans in a set by Brian Currah which neatly mirrors the blend of the realistic and the fantastic, the practical and the symbolic, which Mr. Muschamp achieves. Just when one fears he is about to founder in the arid wastes of political theorising he suddenly produces a sparkling jest to lighten gloom; a succession of quick-fire witticisms are followed by a simple truth.
Richard Martin and Charles Kay pop in and out of frontier boxes like Tyrolean weather-people; one can almost hear Mr. Kay listening to the wind sighing through the birch trees. Not for worlds would I have missed his rhapsodies on the tram his wife drives in the capital, though Mr. Martin tends to rely too much on simple, youthful exuberance.
Jacqueline Wilson and Terry Wale, the refugees move in bewildered sanity through the madnesses of military rigidity, red tape and bureaucracy, over - and under - organisation (Mr. Muschamp tilts at many windmills). The refugees' voice, that of human decency and dignity, is happily that which finally sings loudest.
Birmingham Post, 14.4.59.
Staff Reporter (K.G.)
.......For the soldiers the Bridge of Sighs becomes
the Bridge of Truth. Suddenly they have a problem to which none of their rules
and regulations can supply the answer. It remains for a smuggler [Alan Howard]
who comes and goes as he pleases to solve their dilemma by driving the refugees
off in his "bubble" car - a feat on the Belgrade stage you must see to
Coventry Standard, 17.4.1959.
....I even liked the gimmicks, including the bubble
car, driven with great skill by Mr. Howard......
Stratford-on-Avon Herald, 17.4.59.
......Alan Howard plays a smuggler of unidentified
nationality who resolves the refugees' problem by driving them off in his
bubble car - a feat on the Belgrade stage which must qualify him for the
advanced driving certificate........
Coventry Evening Telegraph, 14.4.59.
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