What’s In A Name? Interview by Charles Hutchinson

What’s In A Name? is a French hit by Matthew Delaporte and Alexandre de La Patellière, premiered as Le Prènom in Paris in 2010. The ferocious 90-minute comedy has since been translated into 22 languages, becoming a hit across the world.

Jeremy Sams adapted and directed the English debut production for Birmingham
Repertory Theatre in 2017, and he now oversees an entirely new cast for the first
British tour, mounted by Adam Blanshay Productions .

The setting is a particularly awkward family dinner party, relocated to a Peckham flat
in the English version, hosted by Elizabeth and her husband, Peter, who have invited
her brother, father-to-be-Vincent and his partner Anna, joined by childhood friend
Carl. When a startling revelation about the name chosen for Vincent and Anna’s imminent child triggers a destructive argument that spirals out of control, no-one holds back as egos, childish resentments and unspoken feelings are exposed for the first time.

“It’s definitely English in character now,” says Bo, who plays host Peter. “It migrates
really well from France to Peckham, stylistically changing to English sensibilities, but
perhaps slightly heightened for farce. Jeremy has done a great job of seamlessly
making it feel English, but at the same time the things that are expressed in the play
– how arguments start – are universal, not just French!”

Peter, his character in What’s In A Name?, is a university professor of language. “So
language is his speciality and he feels he can take the moral high ground on this
particular subject. But he’s also witty and cheeky and says the things we all might have thought, and with his ability to use language he believes he should always have the final word, so he spends a lot of time ranting.”

The play takes place in real time, as the Moroccan dishes are prepared and eaten,
the arguments break out and everything falls apart. “Stage management will be
cooking the food for us each show. In the first week of rehearsals, they
took us all out to this lovely Moroccan restaurant in Covent Garden, so we got to
taste what the dishes should taste like!”

Laura Patch takes on the role of Peter’s wife, Elizabeth, who gives him his
comeuppance after being gradually sidelined through the meal.
“It’s a very funny play, a very fast-paced dark comedy and a lot of fun to perform,”
she says. “There’s a lot of good stuff in there. Never a dull moment. It’s very much a British piece now; it certainly feels completely authentic to Britain in 2019. Its humour is rooted in reality, more than in the world of farce, as we see what happens when people who know each other well get together and fall out.”

Food plays a prominent role in What’s In A Name? “It’s my first ‘full meal’ play. I’ve
done ‘nibbles plays’ before, but we really do have to eat the food,” says Laura. “There’s no time for getting supper otherwise, so I’m going to have to make the most
of these 90 minutes… and luckily I love Moroccan dishes.”

What’s In A Name? arrives at Grand Opera House, York, from October 8th to 12th.

Piece written by Charles Hutchinson used with permission from ATG. 

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