Everybody’s seen the 1989 film version of When Harry Met Sally, starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. If they haven’t, they know how the plot develops – Harry and Sally take 12 years and three months to finally get together amid New York’s hard-bitten dating scene – or, at the very least, that Katz Diner scene.
From the start, then, the audience has certain expectations about the stage version. Does director John Payton’s version at the First Group theatre stand up?
Gillian Rudd (Sally) and John Cusworth (Harry) put in sterling efforts in their roles as the leads, with excellent US accents – without a hint of their native Scottish and Geordie burrs. While Rudd’s character seems defined and loveable straight from scene one, Cusworth develops Harry’s charisma more as the show goes on. Supported expertly by Lucie Hunter James (Marie) and Matt Addis (Jack), they’re only let down by small technical errors: screens playing before they should, telephones ringing when they shouldn’t, the odd spotlight coming on a moment too late. But these are minor glitches, and the seven-strong cast easily manage to hold the audience’s attention, while the large screen showing stories of wrinklier couples and scenes from NYC is a nice touch.
But the question most want to know the answer to is – how do they pull off the diner scene? The answer? With no holds barred. Rudd enacts the appropriate squeals and table-banging admirably. Indeed, throughout
the play it seems no expletive or swear word is censored four our sensitive audience. Our only thought is that there could have been more shocked and appalled-looking bystanders on stage (there were only two extras), to make the public display of satisfaction all the more toe-curling and rib-tickling.
But these, again, are small quibbles. The final word on it is simply that First Group Theatre’s rendition of When Harry Met Sally makes for an entertaining evening out, and will leave you wanting what they’re having.