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Playtime Review

The Jacques Tati movie Playtime is regarded by critics and directors as one of the greatest films of all time. In 2012 it ranked in the top 45 in both the critics and the directors British Film Institute polls of 'The 100 Greatest Films of All Time'.  Now theatre company Dancing Brick brings the movie to the stage in a charming production that blossoms as it goes on. 

Enoch Lwanga, Yuyu Rau and Valentina Ceschi in Playtime. Photo by Manuel Harlan

The team at Dancing Brick has done a great job of bringing this charming Parisian world to the stage, the whole production feels like a lengthy superbly choreographed (great choreography provided by Ana Beatriz Meireles) dance with effortless transitions and multiple role changes in every scene with each performer playing a raft of differing characters. 

It's those transitions that are so well handled. The speed in which some of the changes are pulled off but each time they're slick and precise. Especially in a madcap chaotic scene on the opening night of a brand new restaurant which takes up much of the second act and is definitely the production at its best. 

What bogs down the piece is the lengthy sequences. The overly long airport opening scene feels like it goes on forever as we're introduced and re-introduced to the raft of characters that we follow throughout. These scenes may re-create the movie but on stage, they are a bit stifling for the action and is a little void of laughs. 

There's very little in the way of plot, each scene is a set piece at a different location varying from the aforementioned airport, restaurant, office block, Paris Expo or hotel. The central figure that ties everything together is Monsieur Hulot, a character often cited by Rowan Atkinson as inspiration for Mr. Bean, and whilst he's a bit less of a bumbling idiot he is a fine central figure and he strikes up a lovely relationship with a tourist. 

The company of Playtime. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

The cast is outstanding throughout in their physicality and their delivery. Each character is distinctively captured helped by simple things such as a small costume change. Martin Bassindale, Valentina Ceschi (who also co-directs), Abigail Dooley, Enoch Lwanga and Yuyu Rau all are magnificent throughout. The tone is set with the airport escalator sequences which are played perfectly. 

The design by Michael Vale is clever in its simplicity allowing for the performances to do much of the talking with their actions - largely it's a silent piece. The soundtrack provided by Chilly Gonzales and Pierre Grillet with original songs by Martha Wainwright is a bit monotonous in its repetitive nature but it certainly feels Parisian. 

If you want a bit of madcap escapism then Playtime offers 2 hours of Parisian fun with well-rounded characters. It lacked a bit in laughs but it's a charming piece that sweeps you along with it. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ unashamedly bonkers fun.

Playtime plays at Royal and Derngate in Northampton until Saturday 17th September 2022. Tickets are available from

Abigail Dooley, Valentina Ceschi and Martin Bassindale in Playtime. Photo by Manuel Harlan

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