LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (The Play): London's Park200 Theatre
Paul Hunter (Albin), Mark Cameron (Zorba) and Michael Matus (Georges): Photo Mark Douet

La Cage Aux Folles/The Birdcage, call it what you will, but of course we have (most of us) seen it as the Jerry Herman/Stephen Sondheim musical, as a film with Nathan Lane and Robin Williams or as the play in its own right. Simon Callow, veteran and beloved actor, has offered a new translation of this fabulous, laughter packed story, keeping close to the original premise of Jean Poiret. Directed by Jez Bond and starring Michael Matus as Georges, Paul Hunter as his partner Albin and complemented by Sarah Lam, Syrus Lowe, Peter Straker, Mark Cameron, Arthur Hughes, Simon Hepworth, William Nelson, Georgina Ambrey, Louise Bangay, Paul Hunter and Peter Straker this adaptation is making its appearance at the fabulous Park 200 Theatre in London's Finsbury Park, where the audience can get up 'close and personal' to the glitz of this entertaining production.

To recap, nightclub owner Georges and his dazzling drag artiste partner Albin are notorious for their spectacular shows in St Tropez. Their home is all embracing of their sexuality, no closet here. Enter their straight and dare I say utterly selfish son, Laurent, who is to be married to the daughter of an intolerant right wing politician who, with his wife, is determined to clean up the town. And so begins the farce. Anxious to protect Laurent and ensure his happiness with his fiancée, Georges and Albin must play the straight game to convince their prospective in-laws. Sadly the closet must be forced which goes against the very essence of their being and compounds their generosity of spirit. Of course this cannot work - so let the laughter begin. 

Opening onto an opulent drawing room in sunny St Tropez,we are treated to deliciously camp trimmings and Norma Desmond staircase, resplendent with portraits of many an idolised Hollywood star and surrounded by Art Nouveau knick-knacks. This is the glitzy realm of Georges and Albin. And it is not just the apartment that is sparkling. The costumes glitter splendidly as does the portrayal by this delightful cast. What's not to like! Tim Shortall certainly went to town with his luscious set design and costuming.

Despite a few hiccups along the way, there were strong performances particularly from Michael Matus, Paul Hunter and Syrus Lowe. Body and soul were thrown into the ring and they gave it their all. The sight of gay butler Jacob (Syrus Lowe) struggling to walk in his 'man shoes' and giving the impression of Julie Walters in her role of Mrs Overall still has me laughing, some 24 hours later. Equally the macho butcher Zorba expounding the beauty of fine art as he strutted around the set in blood soaked aprons; terrific performance by Mark Cameron. Exhausting performances but exhilarating nevertheless. Feydeau would have  been proud, particularly towards the end when it all turned on its head. But enough of that, you will just have to see for yourselves.

Be prepared for 2 hours of fun and farce. I don't think I can better the thoughts of Callow: 'La Cage Aux Folles is a great - and brilliantly funny - play about living the life you want to live. It's also a bit of an eye-opener about what it was to be out and gay in the early seventies. It's zany, outrageous, mad. A rampant and sentimental farce.'

Listings

Venue: Park200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP
Dates: 12 February - 21 March 2020
Age guidance: 16+
Performances: Mon-Sat evenings 7.30 pm. Thurs/Sat matinees 3.00 pm. Audio Described Wed 18 March 7.30 pm.
Prices: Standard: £l8.50 - £32.50; concessions £16.50 - £23.50
Booking: www.parktheatre.co.uk tel: 020 7870 6876 (10% telephone booking fee, capped at £2.50 per ticket)