To Master the Art

Written on October 23rd, 2011

To Master the Art


By William Brown and Doug Frew
Directed by Susan Ferley
Performed by Sarah Machin Gale, Geoffrey Whynot, Emily Andrews, Matt Bois, Leanna Brodie, Burgandy Code, Eric Frank, Thomas Hauff, Geoff Kolomayz, Jane Miller.
Grand Theatre, London
October 18 to November 5, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Bon Appétit

Take one imposing actress playing a formidable character, add nine cast members, fold onto an interesting set, stir in a stimulating plot, and sprinkle with witticisms. That’s the recipe London’s Grand Theatre is serving: To Master the Art.

It’s the story of Julia Child and the writing of her famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The play opens with the Julia and her husband, Paul’s, arrival in France in 1948. Paul introduces her to fine French cuisine and she is completely smitten. Paul works for the U.S. State Department, so Julia attends Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and becomes adept at French cooking. After 10 years of writing and testing recipes, eventually she and her co-author publish the legendary cookbook.

The story also includes subplots about the Childs’ joie de vivre, their intriguing past as possible wartime spies, their fascinating friends, her uncaring father, their political leanings, and the nastiness of McCarthyism, all of which make it an interesting tale. Letters from Julie’s father, friends and publisher are read aloud, with the sender on stage beside the recipient, closing the gap of time and distance between correspondents.

Julia’s witty repartee is evident throughout: when she feels jealousy towards a hostess who greets Paul warmly, she points out that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, adding “It’s never too late to revive an old French custom.”

Sarah Machin Gale commands the stage as Julia Child, and well she should! She portrays the awkward mannerisms with the trade mark voice and unusual speech patterns very well. Julia, at over six feet tall, was a daunting character, and Machin Gale splendidly makes that clear. She also handles Julia’s witty lines perfectly, with excellent comedic timing.

Geoffrey Whynot is a doting Paul and Jane Miller is a rude Jane Foster. The rest of cast deserves credit for handling multiple roles very well – one forgets that there are only seven as they keep showing up in very different incarnations.

French is used often throughout the performance, and again the cast does well to remember lines in two languages. But even if you didn’t understand any French, I think you would still grasp the intent of the dialogue.

Anyone who enjoys gourmet cooking, an endearing love story and historical intrigue will appreciate this play. C’est un spectacle très intéressant!

To Master the Art continues at the Grand Theatre, London until November 5. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit

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