An Hour and a Half Late

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 24-Sat 28 Oct


My father once gave me a piece of advice, the wisdom of which magnifies as the years pass. ‘Son,’ he said, ‘never try to get the last word in an argument with a woman - it’ll last the rest of your life.’ It’s a dilemma that Mel Smith’s character faces in his adaptation of Jean Dell and Gerald Sibleyras’ Parisian hit, touring for the first time to Scotland.

Smith, whose recent portrayal of Winston Churchill at the Fringe drew praise, plays a recently retired stockbroker, intent on spending his blissful prime (he’s chucked it in early) with his ostensibly happy wife. But an offhand remark leads to a row that gathers a hideous impetus all its own and the painful comedy snowballs to the point of questioning not just their marriage, but their bourgeois vision of the good life itself. To compound this, they’re late for a dinner party.

If this promises little more profound than an amusing domestic comedy, it might show some acute observations of the battle of the genders along the way. Any male who has wondered at the female capacity to count imagined slights for months, if not years, finally to be trotted out at an opportune moment with historical documentation that’d give AJP Taylor some pause for a bit of ‘you what?’ might find this interesting. But so, too, might any woman who’s busy counting those slights . . .

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