Theatre review: Family reunion

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Saturday, Sunday... and

Monday

Chichester Festival Theatre

For the life of me, I cannot imagine why we have had to wait 25 years for a revival of the magnificent Monday. Eduardo de Filippo's exuberant portrait of family life is deliciously organised chaos: the play is a rich, comic feast.

Donna Rosa (Dearbhla Molloy) puts her heart and soul into her cookery and the comic storm clouds gather on Saturday as she chops parsley, fries onions and chivvies Virginia the maid.

Donna Rosa is preparing her famed ragout for Sunday lunch, at which everyone will sit down together. And everyone means their two cocksure sons and their squally daughter, who is keeping her fiance, Rocco, dangling; the preening actor brother; the sister with ideas above her station and a doting doctor in tow and her waddling wimp of a son. Not to mention the threatening presence of Virginia's huge brother.

Then there is the accountant and his wife. For husband Don Peppino (David Suchet), this is the last straw. Donna Rosa has ignored him for four months and the presence of the accountant pushes him from simmering discontent to boiling jealousy.

Like Chekhov, de Filippo's plays are ensemble comedies with vibrant, dark hearts. In an ideal production, you are so busy drinking in the teeming details of family life on the often crowded stage that you do not notice the superb stagecraft. It is gloriously watchable, superbly orchestrated chaos and the director's job is to weld the individual voices together, to control the rhythm: to conduct it. Which is where director Jude Kelly goes awry.

There are some lovely performances, notably Janet Henfrey as the self- educated sister. Too many of the others either don't begin to scratch the surface or, worse, play the same note continuously. Kelly rarely manages to create real ensemble playing, leaving them isolated and killing the comedy and thus the passion which should drive the play.

David Suchet gives a rich and loving performance. He also gets the most laughs. Not because it's the funniest role, but because he uses Jeremy Sams's spry translation as the springboard to truthful characterisation.

To 27 June. Booking: 01243 781312.

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