Chocolate and Cigarettes opened up as a series jaunt for amateur theatre group the Phnom Penh Players, who more often than not take to the stage with risqué, slap-stick pantomimes with a Cambodian twist.
The award-winning, one-act play written by the late English director, playwright and screenwriter Anthony Minghella, is about a woman named Gemma, who one day gives up talking, and the confessions of her frustrated friends that follow.
The handful of expatriates who make up the Phnom Penh Players brought the London-based play to neatly clad "barang" audiences at the Russian Culture Centre on Norodom Boulevard from Thursday to Saturday night last week.
The set up was simple, with a couch and table making Gemma’s modest apartment, stage right; a prop window and bar-styled table centrestage; and a garden table and chairs stage left.
Despite the absence of cross-dressers and other Phnom Penh Player peculiarities, the cast portrayed their characters well, with few to no bloopers to bring an awkward silence.
The silent Gemma, played by Helen Bradley-Jones, only speaks in monologue to open and close the play.
She flops from an armchair to the floor and back to the armchair throughout the performance with the quiet interlude of Bach’s Matthew Passion playing overhead.
She is the only character who never leaves the stage, even when the attention is not on her.
Apart from one dialogue exchange in the beginning of the play to introduce three of Gemma’s friends, the remainder of the delivery was in monologues, some more long-winded than others.
Despite the good delivery, after the third or so monologue the effect grew somewhat tiresome and a tad bland.
The language, however was fairly realistic, emotive, and at times witty, giving the characters a good level of depth.
This gave particular credence to Gemma’s unfaithful lover, Rob, played by Olivier Beauchemin Bonafico, who ranted and raged in quite a relatable manner when irked.
All in all, a well-acted, provocative production.
Though Chocolate and Cigarette's run is finished, these local thespians will be back soon with a series of short plays to be staged in June, all featuring original works by Phnom Penh-based playwrights.
To contact the reporter on this story: Deborah Seccombe at [email protected]