The Mill at Sonning’s latest production of We’ll Always Have Paris is a light-hearted, humoured play exploring friendship and the desire to seize life.

Credit: Andreas Lambis

Written by Jill Hyem, the story follows three old school friends, who differ in character, but all share the same desire to “escape and live life to the full”. Former headmistress Nancy resides in Paris after escaping her suburban life in Hazelmere. Her friend, Raquel, also lives in Paris and is a divorcee who juggles multiple toy boys. Recently widowed, Anna joins them in Paris after spending years caring for her late husband. The trio are occasionally joined by actor and handyman, Charlot (Richard Keep), who is often exchanging French and English idioms with Nancy. The cast are completed with Basiekena Blake’s role as the archetype no-nonsense landlady, Madam Bouissiron.

Taking place entirely in Nancy’s split-level Parisian apartment, Sally Hughes’ direction utilises the entire set, designed by Michael Holt. And to add that Paris essence, Graham Weymouth’s lighting design included a twinkling Eiffel Tower in the background, with scene changes accompanied by notable French songs.

While nothing much happens in act one, we get a sense of who the characters are. I enjoyed the performance and chemistry between the three friends. Elizabeth Elvin’s Nancy is authoritative, kind-hearted and appears to hold the friendship group together. Debbie Arnold provided humour as the boisterous Raquel. We couldn’t help but laugh as she recalled her 5 ex-husbands and shared stories of her toy boys.

Credit: Andreas Lambis

Natalie Ogle is a shy, timid Anna, who develops a connection with the charming, Charlot. I couldn’t see the romantic spark between them, but I did appreciate that their storyline did not go down a predictable route. Anna certainly was the more rounded character of the trio. It was endearing to watch her transform into a confident and independent woman, not afraid to hide her smile.  

After a heated argument which resulted in Nancy sporting a ‘moon boot’, the show continues to have nothing significant happening. At just over two hours long, the play could have added more depth and even more subplots. I felt some of the dialogue was dated, especially with the archaic stereotypes about the French and British added for humour (I didn’t laugh).  

Overall, the cast performed well, and it was lovely to see three older protagonists in a play choosing to live their 60s in a way society would never expect them to.

We’ll Always Have Paris, but like the city’s catacombs – I hope next time there’s slightly more beneath the surface.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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