Theatre Review: Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam opens in Highgate

Woody Allen’s drama PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM brings fabulous 1960s fashion and trade-mark neurotics to the Highgate stage.

A little silly and over-the-top, Play it Again, Sam makes for an easy show to watch and is likely to become one of Woody Allen’s more popular plays in London.

It is set in the apartment of a wounded divorcee and misdirected film critic, Allan Felix, as he models himself after Humphrey Bogart in an effort to reclaim success with women. Allan’s overactive imagination conjures Casablanca’s ladies man to advise him in his romantic affairs.

Allan is played by Tim Frost, who has difficult shoes to fill considering Woody Allen first performed the role. But he nails the neurotic and self-conscious manner of a man deserted by a wife tired of “watching” life rather than taking part. He stumbles over all the right words and trips over his own two feet in a wonderfully funny way.

Yet despite Frost’s mastery of the character, he seems to forget where he is meant to be. His acting is very stylized, where a more casual approach to his monologues would better suit the set – perfectly naturalistic with rogue garments and food packaging strewn about the New York living room.

Allan’s imaginative frenzies in which his apartment becomes the stage for dramatic Hollywood scenes would have a much greater impact if his private moments and conversations were downplayed.

More convincing is his romance with his best friend’s wife Linda, played by Amy Bailey. She teaches Allan to be himself and makes the scene on stage feel genuine. Her character is charming and believable – plus the 1960s fashion is fabulous!

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* Showing Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate Village, N6, until Sunday, June 26.