Reviews round-up: Lettice and Loveage at the Menier Chocolate Factory

A review round-up for Lettice and Loveage at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Trevor Nunn’s revival of  Peter Shaffer’s  Lettice and Loveage starring Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman opens to mixed reviews at the Menier in South London.

Shaffer’s comedy about a pair of middle-aged eccentrics, written specifically for Maggie Smith in 1987,  ‘now looks a strenuous and whimsical confection’ according to Michael Billington of the Guardian and ‘bereft of the sort of titanic lead performance it was built for feels like a harmless entertainment’ say TimeOut.

It’s not all doom and gloom, Ann Treneman, Times though ‘Felicity Kendal is a wonder and Maureen Lipman not far behind”

All said, despite the star casting, this isn’t a guaranteed West End transfer.

Lettice and Loveage runs until 8 July 2017 at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Check out the round-up of reviews below:

Average rating score for this production


"Maureen Lipman’s brisk bureaucrat is a perfect complement to Felicity Kendal’s gutsy exhibitionist in a revival of Peter Shaffer’s heritage satire." "Felicity Kendal has the tricky task or reinventing a role created for another actor. Where Maggie Smith used her wrists to convey Lettice’s airy fabrications, Kendal takes a different line by suggesting the character is a gutsy exhibitionist." "She carries it off with aplomb and, even if she overuses the device of underscoring a line with a throaty gurgle, she emphatically makes the role her own." "Maureen Lipman is the ideal foil as Lotte and, from the start, hints that there is more to this brisk bureaucrat than meets the eye. She is especially good in a scene where the two women get hopelessly drunk." "Although Shaffer always writes generously for actors, this is a play where the parts are infinitely bigger than the whole." Michael Billington, The Guardian

"What a difference 30 years makes. Three decades on, it’s almost impossible to see what the fuss was about. For this laboured revival, Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman appear to have been cast for their box-office bankability rather than any inherent suitability for the roles." "At its heart, this play is about two lonely, frustrated women of a certain age who are worried about their impending obsolescence in the modern world. If only this emotional truth were allowed a little breathing space." "Instead Kendal’s default mode is one of wafty declamation, a setting that very soon wears very thin, whereas Lipman unleashes a bewildering series of unexplained ticks and twitches. Lines are said, rather than characters inhabited." Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

"It is the performances that lift this up, saving it from the dreaded mere ‘mereness’ — Felicity Kendal is a wonder and Maureen Lipman not far behind" "At the heart of this funny, peculiar play, written by Peter Shaffer, is the portrait of an eccentric who is, quite simply, England on a stick." “Enlarge! Enliven! Enlighten!” cries Lettice Douffet, played by Felicity Kendal with an almost wild zeal. She is a woman for whom the words “drama queen” seem woefully inadequate and Kendal, in a short orange wig and a long black Lady Macbeth cloak, is larger than life as we know it." Ann Treneman, The Times

"at times it also looks like they [Lipman & Kendal] are having to do quite a bit of work to keep this cumbersome vehicle afloat. They don't avoid the pitfalls of occasionally garbled lines either." "But these two actors are such a pleasure to watch in that they save the day. The eternally kittenish Kendal and the poised, principled Lipman both expose a disarming vulnerability beneath their bluff exteriors." Mark Shenton, The Stage

"I’m afraid that Felicity Kendal, little less loved by the public at large, will be lucky to be the talk of Southwark, so much does she struggle at the Menier Chocolate Factory to make comic headway with – and emotional sense of – this spinsterish standard-bearer for eccentricity and imagination in a world of grey conformity." "In a sense, it’s the air of struggle itself that’s the problem with this passingly entertaining yet effortful-feeling revival by Trevor Nunn" "Stirringly eloquent about European civilisation and the Luftwaffe-like damage done by post-war urban planners, Lipman (iffy Teutonic accent aside) can make a raised eyebrow amusing and almost brings the house down as she histrionically gags, as if choking on fur-balls, at the sight of Lettice’s feline companion." "But overall this rather tired Lettice needs greater quantities of pep, charm and calm to justify its almost sold-out run or qualify for a West End transfer." Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph

"Nunn seems determined to be about as unadventurous as physically possible. His production has the air of a creaky old sitcom to it (not least in Robert Jones’s very brown, very chintz set). I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Kendal isn’t in Smith’s league, but her performance seems flawed for reasons that feel more directorial than anything: she’s very funny when we first meet her, but there seems to have been no demand for exploration of the character, no curiousity about the damage that’s surely just beneath the surface of her lonely, unusual life. Lipman is better, bringing a certain troubled introspection – even a hint of darkness – to Lotte. But it’s not enough to give ‘Lettice and Lovage’ any real heft." "Bereft of the sort of titanic lead performance it was built for, ‘Lettice and Lovage’ feels like a harmless entertainment, a limp footnote to the career of a playwright whose greatest works reached boldly for the stars." Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut

Date: 18 May 2017
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