A Chorus Of Disapproval (1988) - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

If you enjoyed Jeremy Irons' performance in Barbet Schroeder's vastly overrated "Rcversal of Fortune", or even if you didn't, you might enjoy seeing him in "A Chorus of Disapproval", directed by Michael Winner.  Michael Winner began his career in 1957 by directing "This Is Belgium".  Strapped for funds, he shot much of the travelogue in the British suburban town of East Grinstead.  He achieved fame and fortune with the American-made "Death Wish" movies, but his early work on films like "The Jokers" and "I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name" reveal a remarkable feeling for sharp satire that he seldom exploits.  

Winner was a good choice to direct Sir Alan Ayckbourn's "A Chorus of Disapproval", a charming satire about the antics of an amateur suburban theatrical troupe.  Like many other Ayckbourn works, including "The Norman Conquests", the satire is in-house.  The characters may not behave in irreproachable ways, but they are not condemned for their shortcomings, they are simply shown as the intensely human lot they are.  Jeremy Irons is ideally cast as a widowed twit who auditions for the company led by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is an insensitive boor, but he is completely devoted to the company and takes the newcomer under his wing.  Faster than you can say, "What is there to do in this little town?", we learn that the chief indoor sport is extramarital affairs.  There is a swinging couple played by the seductive Jenny Seagrove and a rather puffy Gareth Hunt who invite Irons and a friend over for fun and games, but Irons is so dense that he brings a sweet little dowager who spends the evening sleeping through a television documentary.  There is Hopkins' wife (Prunella Scales) who falls head over heels for the shy young stranger.  Meanwhile, Alexandra Pigg and Patsy Kensit fight for the reluctant approval of a grungy kid in the troupe.  

For one of Britain's most prolific playwrights, Ayckbourn leads a somewhat insulated life.  At one point in his career, he maintained that he wrote everything for a suburban repertory theatre, not for West End showcases, television or the movies, and his work still remains untouched by urban sophistication.  As a writer, his chief fascination remains suburbia, a world he observes with affection and wit.  Along the way, we see pettiness and treachery, but we also see continuity and strength.  Some of Britain's finest actors are in the cast of  "A Chorus of Disapproval" (Sylvia Syms, Lionel Jeffries, Barbara Ferris, Richard Briers) and Winner's surprisingly low-key approach here is ideal for this sort of delicate material.
© 2013 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 01/23/13
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