Six years ago, an avalanche of Hollywood films were being adapted for stage and climaxed with a fairly successful first airing of Marcy Kahan’s script of the 1989 Nora Ephron Oscar-nominated screenplay.
The classic tale which asks whether it’s possible for men and women to just be friends is revived in this touring production starring Rupert Hill and Sarah Jayne Dunn as the eponymous couple who travel a 12-year friendship-to-consummation journey.
Beginning out as fresh graduates, Harry meets Sally when he’s hired to paint her new apartment and we follow their encounters over a decade as they start and end relationships, progressing in careers but not love. Marcy Kahan’s distilled version for the stage runs smoothly with a quick pace and quirky approach, the scene changes covered effectively by an audio of the film’s interludes of elderly couples recalling when they met.
The quirky pacing and time span allow the audience to stay alert but what this production misses is any heart, the core relationship not generating enough chemistry to truly buy into the action onstage. The piece doesn’t take any chances, hardly diverging from the original which means this film-to-play adaptation simply re-runs the same plot with diminishing returns.
Hill does a stellar job of creating a Harry that doesn’t immediately echo Billy Crystal’s incarnation, hilariously portraying Harry’s pessimism under a barrage of self-important banter. Unfortunately this abundant energy was not matched by Dunn’s passive interpretation of Sally. Dunn’s failed to find the assertiveness behind the compulsive character and through this fails to develop the character, with Sally appearing to be the same person throughout the production. Even the infamous café orgasm scene felt tame.
With a simple set featuring the New York skyline, a precise script and some chilled jazz tunes from Jamie Cullum and his brother Ben, When Harry met Sally works well as a play but it has no real point, playing out as a diluted carbon copy of the screen version; rather than adding new dimensions it opts for safety over ambition.
An enjoyable evening due to the winning wit of the dialogue and well-executed production, yet the overall result is an underwhelming and tame adaptation.
Showing until Sat 19 June