Madame Rubinstein @ Park Theatre
Cast includes Frances Barber and Miriam Margolyes
Running Time: 2 hours 5 mins, inc. interval
Madame Rubinstein is a new comedy by John Misto produced by the Park Theatre and features the story of the conflict between the heads of two major cosmetic firms, Elizabeth Arden and the titular Helena Rubinstein. It also features the relationship between Rubinstein and her assistant ‘Irish’ over the space of approximately 20 years.
The narrative of the piece is fair, however, it suffers from an abundance of fragmented scenes and slow transitions which really impact on the flow of the piece. The weighting of the piece is also at fault – the first and second acts also seem adrift of each other: the tone of the second is much less comic and notably slower, and isn’t balanced by enough humour for a comedy. The events of the first act also do not seem to shape or influence the second much, which seems remiss. There are also fewer scenes featuring both Arden and Rubinstein sparring together, which is a shame as their encounters are a highlight.
The sets of the piece are also very workmanlike, which is disappointing after some of the sets that have featured at the Park previously. As previously mentioned, there are lots of slow transitions as stagehands move or bring on chairs, some of which are not even used in the scene. There seems little imagination used in creating these sets, and even less thought of how to enhance the transitions.
Margolyes and Barber delight as the cosmetic giants – Margolyes brings her brilliant comic timing to the part of Rubinstein as well as supplying great pathos to the role. Arden is superbly brought to life by Barber, and has great chemistry with Margolyes – the moments they share the stage are positively the best parts of the piece.
Summary: A slight comedy that, whilst having a stellar cast, never fulfils its full potential and could benefit from more laughs. ***