by Ronald Harwood.
Watford Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon Road WD17 1JZ To 23 February 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat & 20 Feb 2.30pm.
Audio-described 23 Feb 2.30pm.
Captioned 18 Feb.
Post-show Discussion 19 February.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 01923 225671.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 February.
Serious-minded play in the hands of some quality actors..
Playwright Ronald Harwood sets a number of limits in his 1998 story of two middle-aged sisters (six years and probably the age of 50 separating them) and the inheritance left by their recently dead mother. A bit’s in money but most in the knick-knacks – or is it valuable antiques? – mother compulsively collected in her afflicted later years.
But there’s more than years separating them; plain, honest Edith stayed to look after mother, while glamorous, flamboyant Renata married wealthy men and enjoyed a continental high-life. It’s no use Edith fancying the family solicitor; he ignores her for Renata in easily switched-on seduction mode.
Their personalities, and, it becomes clear, the love they received from their two parents, are divided equally; the question Harwood asks, without closing-down with a firm answer, is who has the better deal from life. And, if justice exists, how can it be achieved?
Everyone has their secrets and lies; Renata, Solicitor Charles Mowbray (not above nicking some knick-knacks) and the local antiques dealer Edith brings in. At least he’s open about his dishonesty, from his name out. It’s this that makes Edith cling to him to find someone to trust.
The limitations? The family home setting is formed from railway carriages, making a long, narrow strip of stage which sets challenges for movement and character interaction. And, suitably in a play mentioning Aristotle, the three dramatic unities attributed to the Greek are observed: one story, in one place, taking place within 24 hours.
And Harwood takes on the old convention, supposedly mocked to death by Tom Stoppard in The Real Inspector Hound, of revealing information at curtain-up through a telephone conversation, using it brazenly before incorporating the device into the action. Then, when Renata enters and conversation might begin there’s uncommunicative silence. Or, silence bristling with hostile physical signals.
It’s a serious, if slow-moving piece, with well-acted surfaces in Brigid Larmour’s production, though sometimes a sense of complexity is lost in favour of a single direct track. Not so, however, with Beverley Klein, who chooses apt moments to open the anxieties and disappointments of Edith’s consciousness.
Edith Taylor: Beverley Klein.
Charles Mowbray: Walter van Dyk.
Renata Taylor: Katharine Rogers.
Fabian Hill: Gregory Dudgeon.
Director: Brigid Larmour.
Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.