DANDY DICK: Arthur Wing Pinero
New Alexandra Birmingham till 25 08, and touring
Runs: 2h 40m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray, 21 08 12, New Alexandra
So much life in this classic comedy – and a company that doesn’t miss a trick.
Here’s an energetic, detailed and enormously welcome revival of Pinero’s comedy.
It all takes place in the home of rural dean, The Very Reverend Augustin Jedd; he’s broke, in urgent need of cash and has high moral standards. Not necessarily shared by two daughters, a racehorse owning sister (who comes to stay) and a racing fanatic he knows from his university days. Dandy Dick (a racehorse) also comes to stay. In a way, we have a Victorian dysfunctional family! With butler, cook and policeman to boot.
These characters are the very spine of British comedy. In Christopher Luscombe’s adaptation and production, and with an excellent acting company, these characters are given freshness and vigour. The production, with its hint of footlights, is a great delight.
Nicholas le Prevost creates a warm Jedd. This poor Dean is both preposterous and believable and le Prevost’s timing is perfection. Patricia Hodge creates a glorious comedic ‘county’ racehorse owner, Georgiana Tidman, in a generous and sharply observed performance. Rachel Lumberg is very funny indeed in her Act III centre-stage, ex-cook Mrs Topping.
Pinero is a master of his craft and this is a slow burn play to start with as he builds towards his second half. Gentle amusement grows into big laughter in the second half. There is so much life in these plays, and this company doesn’t miss a trick.
It’s interesting to see that Pinero isn’t just writing a social comedy. He doesn’t reinstate a contemporaneous status quo; the hypocritical moralising of the Church is demolished and replaced by life-lovers – with an off-stage set of villains becoming heroes. Quite subversive, then.
Salome: Florence Andrews
Sheba: Jennifer Rhodes
Blore: John Arthur
Major Tarver: Peter Sandys-Clarke
Mr Darvey: Charles de Bromhead
The Very Rev Augustin Jedd: Nicholas le Prevost
Georgiana Tidman: Patricia Hodge
Sir Tristram Mardon: Michael Cochrane
Hatcham: Michael Onslow
Hannah Topping: Rachel Lumberg
Noah Topping: Matt Weyland
Adapted and Directed by: Christopher Luscombe
Designer: Janet Bird
Lighting Designer: Paul Pyant
Composer: Nigel Hess
Sound Designer: Gregory Clarke
Resident Director: Guy Unsworth
Dialect Coach: Martin McKellan