In some ways, both women are cast against type, though that might not be apparent as Smith lets fly with one aspish
quip after another, many of them aimed at Americans and America--the country, in fact, where Madeleine and Martin first met.
The same honesty that ensures the tender reading of the author's childhood in Angela's Ashes may be responsible for the often aspish
responses to McCourt's early adulthood in 'Tis.
(What, in mercy's name, would so loopy a woman want with this family of scolds, or they with her?) And while Russell Beale rises to the comedy (listen to his aspish
reference to "the housewife's choice"), this wonderful actor more than ever asserts himself as the British theater's leading avatar of grief.
The cast doesn't always avoid the baroque rhetorical tendencies that have become a Kent trademark -- Oliver Milburn is especially ripe, playing a young suitor in competition with his father for Lulu's affections -- though the first half does find an eerie-voiced Howard in delicious form as the aspish
newspaper editor who passes violently through Lulu's abortive existence.
Well into the third act of the disconcerting non-event that is "Semi-Monde," the 1926 Noel Coward play only now receiving its London premiere, an aspish
senior novelist named Jerome Kennedy (John Carlisle) punctures -- however briefly -- the low-camp banter that until then has been driving the play.
At once pussycat ("I exist to please," he coos contradictorily down the phone) and aspish
pundit, a serf-invented creation as fanciful as he is profound, Crisp begins where Dame Edna leaves off at a point of eccentricity so advanced that it seems, paradoxically, to be utterly truthful and real.