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What's In A Name? at Alexandra Theatre - Review

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by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Clever comedy starring Joe Thomas of The Inbetweeners
Originally a French farce, this play has been translated into a smart British comedy that leads you into surprising places.

What's In A Name?, Play, Joe Thomas , comedy birmingham rep production, Alexandra Theatre birmingham
Joe Thomas stars in this provocative comedy

This translated version of play "Le Prenom", produced by Birmingham Rep Theatre, first appeared in 2017, moving the storyline from Paris to London.

Now What's In A Name? is back in the city at Alexandra Theatre as part of a UK tour - but only for four days from Wednesday March 11 to Saturday March 14.

There's a small cast of five led by Joe Thomas, of The Inbetweeners and Fresh Meat fame, as self-indulgent estate agent Vincent, who gets a buzz out of provoking his friends and family.

What's In A Name?, Play, Joe Thomas , comedy birmingham rep production, Alexandra Theatre birmingham
A close-knit group of friends unearth plenty of revelations

A dinner party hosted by his sister Elizabeth and her husband Peter gives Vincent the perfect platform to cause controversy with the revelation of what he plans to name his unborn child.

But it leads to far more uncomfortable discussions that unleash long-held resentments, secrets and unspoken truths.

Written by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre De La Patelliere, the fascinating play has been adapted and translated well by Jeremy Sams, who also directs, to maintain the sharp wit and momentum of the comedy.

While at the beginning, there are some German-related comments about cars that don't fit in culturally with British attitudes, on the whole, the adaptation fits well with a group of extended friends and siblings in middle-class London.

What's In A Name?, Play, Joe Thomas , comedy birmingham rep production, Alexandra Theatre birmingham
Bo Poraj plays Peter

Where it excels is that it's a very human drama with much of the astute comedy coming from moments of frustration that any couple or sibling will recognise from their own life.

It bubbles along nicely with constant laughs along the way at speed with fast dialogue and quips.

Thomas is a confident lead, once again showing his natural aptitude for comedy with some slight similarities to his role of Simon in The Inbetweeners.

There is a strong cast around him in this slick production, who all gel well together. Bo Poraj - better known as Mike in BBC comedy Miranda - gives character Peter a constant sense of annoyance and is the more serious, deadpan role opposite mischievous Vincent.

Emma Carter as harangued sister, wife and mother Elizabeth is a key central piece in the play and makes the audience have sympathy with the character's frustrations, getting the ultimate showdown of the performance.

What's In A Name?, Play, Joe Thomas , comedy birmingham rep production, Alexandra Theatre birmingham
A range of emotions in What's In A Name?

Then there are the extended circle of Anna and Carl (Louise Marwood and Alex Gaumond) on the periphery, who each have their bombshell moments.

It's a short play at just shy of two hours, including an interval, and during that time, the play manages to grip the audience and take it through various twists and turns.

It moves expertly and swiftly through hilarious one-liners and meaningful anecdotes that slowly reveal more about each of the characters with many gasp out loud surprises to entertain.

The only problem was with the projection of some of the voices during the first act, which came across as very quiet.

It's a relief to see that this popular French comedy hasn't been lost in translation and is still as joyful and clever.

This refreshing comedy cleverly twists the audience in all directions and is a real gem that you won't want to miss.

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Why? See clever comedy starring Joe Thomas from The Inbetweeners
When: March 11 - 14
Phone: 020 7206 1179
Where: Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, B5 4DS
Cost: From 13
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