Review: April in Paris (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, July 26)

April in Paris by John Godber. Photo: Robert Day

April in Paris by John Godber. Photo: Robert Day

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The rise in popularity of certain political parties in Britain underlines the fact that many people still have a little Englander mentality when it comes to Europe.

Yet others are desperate to cross the Channel, in the hope that it will offer some form of escapism from the mundane and the familiar.

John Godber’s comedy, April in Paris, features a bickering husband and wife couple who fill the above roles neatly: one an out and out xenophobe, bemoaning the fact that he has been made redundant while foreigners come into the country and take all the jobs; the other entering magazine holiday competitions regularly in the dim hope of broadening her horizons.

If those broad brush strokes aren’t enough, the couple – Bet and Al - are going through a rocky patch in their marriage that leaves them almost hating the sight of each other.

The chance to tackle their problems comes when Bet wins a romantic couple of days in Paris but is love rekindled, are opinions changed, does travel broaden the mind, or is there really no place like home?

Godber revisits his 1992 play with apparent relish, recognising how little has changed in society, and not only tweaks here and there as the writer, but also directs this tour. The result is sometimes amusing, sometimes poignant – a two-hander with obvious audience appeal.

Joe McGann plays Al and is always far more sympathetic as the hard done by and much nagged husband, looking for meaning and purpose in life and love, an aspiring artist whose existence as well as his painting is monochrome. It is his character who is the more interesting and who makes the most significant journey. Shobna Gulati’s Bet is hard to like, ever critical, always complaining, never satisfied, wanting to dream dreams, yet left going nowhere.

Pip Leckenby’s set is a treat – from the colourless non-descript house with dull decking to the brilliant vitality of a captivating French capital – and both actors make full use of the stage, whether aboard the cross Channel ferry on rough seas or dizzyingly atop the Eiffel Tower.

This tour revival is pleasant enough – maybe not classic Godber but occasionally thought-provoking with flashes of humour, offering slices of satisfaction in a world of the dysfunctional and awkward.