Unusual odds

5th September 1997 at 01:00
Everyone knows Neil Simon's The Odd Couple as a beautifully-crafted comedy about two recently divorced, middle-aged men trying to share an apartment and failing hysterically. But what few know is that Simon later wrote a female version of the play. You can see how it compares at the Arts Theatre, where the National Youth Theatre is now giving the play its London premiere.

Under Andrew O'Connor's direction, the production lives up to the NYT's reputation for high professional standards. Lucy Punch's neurotic housewife Florence would be enough to make Mother Teresa apoplectic, while Rachel Stirling's performance as the cool, aggressively undomesticated Olive is attractive if a bit short on fire.

As an ensemble, the friends who get together every Friday night to play Trivial Pursuits are the real stars, with a truly memorable portrayal of the nerdish Vera by Laura Hayes. Also notable are the hilarious Spanish brothers upstairs (Pepe Balderamma and Gary Shelford). But the jury is still out on whether women's domestic squabbles are as funny as men's.

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