The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED to 20 February 2018.
Sun & Mon 7.30pm Mat Tues 2pm.
Runs 1hr 45 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1632.
Review: William Russell 5 February.
A very funny rediscovery
Yet again the Finborough’s trolling through the archives of plays of the past has come up with a discovery worth making – this comedy of misunderstandings by H.J Byron is not a great play, but it has been skilfully by Hannah Boland Moore, it is well crafted and the plot still works – the latter in spite of not getting the necessary scenery changes the story demands. There is nothing wrong with the set created by designer Daisy Blower, it is just that it has to serve a story which moves to several locations. The Finborough, however, does not have the resources for this.
Cyril Cuthbert, a lanky self obsessed fellow (Tim Gibson), writes hit plays. He has a devoted wife (Isabella Marshall) whom he neglects and hands over to their friend, the dashing in search of a rich wife Major Treherne (Will Kelly) to escort to the theatre on their wedding anniversary. The Major is also wooing a rich widow Mrs Bliss (Allegra Marland) whose fortune would solve all his problems. Add Titeboy (Lewis Hart), a callow lad who adores Mrs Cuthbert, Mr Pincher ( Stephen Rashbrook), a drama critic, and Miss Grannet (Susan Tracy), a spinster virago who used to be Mrs Cuthbert’s schoolteacher and the scene is set for confusion – liaisons are imagined, partner’s split up, careers collapse, a duel is fought and Miss Grannet turns out to be anything but a spinster.
Byron has a way with words, the jokes are still funny and the cast seize on their chances with relish. Susan Tracy is a magnificent gorgon who sets things rolling by suggesting to Mrs Cuthbert that her neglectful husband is straying, Stephen Rashbrook gets some of the best lines as the critic Pincher and Isabella Marshall sparkles as the mousey wife without whose adoration Cyril lacks whatever it was that made him a success.
One of the most prolific dramatists of the mid 19th century Byron wrote many plays, melodramas and burlesques, created pantomime characters like Buttons and Widow Twankey, helped launch the career of the playwright Tom Robertson (Caste is arguably the best remembered) and commissioned the Bab Ballads from W.S. Gilbert (without which much more might not have ensued).
He is buried just down the road from the theatre in West Brompton cemetery.
Mrs Cuthbert: Isabella Marshall
Cyril Cuthbert: Tim Gibson.
Titeboy: Lewis Hart.
Mr Pincher: Stephen Rashbrook.
Major Treherne: Will Kelly.
Miss Grannet: Susan Tracy.
Mrs Bliss: Allegra Marland.
Director: Hannah Boland Moore.
Designer: Daisy Blower.
Lighting Design: Gregory Jordan.
Sound Design: Conor Cook.