Stars work hard in French tale

Paris in the spring - or at any other time of year for that matter - is the go-to place for romance.

But for jilted couple Cesareo Grimaldi (Simon Callow) and Pamela Pusey-Picz (Felicity Kendall) the city of love brings more than they bargained for.

Set in the 1950s, Chin-Chin (Nottingham Theatre Royal) tells the often hilarious and ultimately disastrous effect of an affair between their spouses

The jilted couple – English woman and Italian man - rendezvous in a Parisian apartment, exchanging tales of woe. Amidst copious intakes of whisky and red wine their life together begins. Not for them, however, romantic strolls along the Boulevard Saint-Michel or meetings in art galleries and under the Eiffel Tower. It goes downhill to an assignation on a squalid quay bordering the Seine.

Playwright Francois Billetdoux’s characters’ journey from affluence to penury makes heavy going at times, with the soul-searching becoming wearisome. The pace is slow and fails at first to accelerate even in the second half, when there’s a particularly silly opening scene involving Pamela’s teenage son locked in a cupboard.

Ultimately, the only thing which compels attention is to find out what happens at the end.

Against that, Callow, mastering an Italian accent to perfection, and Kendall make the most of their scenes in a wordy play, which sometimes contains shafts of wit and devastating humour.

You certainly cannot fault the quality of the acting – it’s a far cry from Callow keeling over in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Kendall’s The Good Life - or the direction of Michael Rudman.

Also, the scenery and the background music are thoroughly evocative and there are nice cameo roles from Joshua Dickinson, and Barrie Palmer as a waiter whose expressions speak volumes.

But for all the delights of a glass of red, sometimes you can have one too many, either on stage or off. Not an evening to remember.