Sizzling satire of Britain between the wars

Cowardy Custard, by Gerald Frow, Alan Strachan and Windy Toye, The Jill Freud Company, St Edmunds Hall, Southwold until July 20 and Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh July 23 – 31

This show is based on the words and music of Noel Coward, undoubtedly one of the wittiest song and play writers of the 20the century and most famous for Private Lives, a feast of cut and thrust rapport and comment on a hypocritical society.

Cowardy Custard, which opens the Southwold and Aldeburgh summer seasons, features more than 30 of Coward’s songs, including A Room with a View, Mad About the Boy, The Stately Homes of England, Mrs Worthington, Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Let’s Do It.

They largely portray an image of Britain between the wars, a country divided by social class but conjoined by an enduring spirit and a healthy scepticism about life, work, love and colonial influence.

In the year 2010, with deep Government cuts currently in the offing, it is apt that the repertoire includes There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner, a tribute to our traditional pessimism and black humour.


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Many of the songs are not easy to sing but the actors of Jill Freud’s summer repertory company, show they are up to the challenge, delivering some feisty numbers while creating a range of amusing characters.

This slick, highly polished show includes a couple of sketches and a philosophical monologue about life; for Coward was a deep, and sometimes bleak, thinker as well as a master of “light” comedy.

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Director, Anthony Falkingham, and choreographer, Sidi Scott, keep the performers on the move throughout and the show - anchored by a superb pianist, Jonathan Rutherford - maintains a furious pace.

It all bodes well for a season which includes a mixed bag of dramas, poetry recitals and children’s shows and which will reach a climax in August and September with a production of Abigail’s Party, the classic comedy by Mike Leigh.

David Green

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