by Noel Coward.
Theatre by the Lake Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 7 November 2015.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 August.
A production that rises to the occasion.
Fallen Angels hangs in the mid-sphere of Noël Coward’s plays – not a lost cause like The Queen Was in Her Parlour orSirocco for example, but without the status of repertory regulars like Hay Fever or Private Lives. Ian Forrest’s Keswick revival should advance its position.
Despite the tight restrictions of a repertory season where each actor has three, often varied, roles Keswick’s cast plays this comedy splendidly, with a lightness fit for the world of P G Wodehouse.
There’s a link with the golf-loving Wodehouse in the Golf expedition absenting two husbands from home just as their wives receive a letter from an old flame, his memory still burning bright in both of them.
And in Richard Earl’s Fred, a Bertie Wooster figure dressed ready for 18 holes. Wodehouse’s impeccable butler Jeeves finds female form in the new maid who knows, and is accomplished in, everything.
The play’s also a star vehicle for the two wives, struggling between desire and conscience. Coward’s light touch accompanies an examination of the blood pulsing beneath respectable middle-class appearances, a morality tale for theatre audiences then and since.
Marriage and female friendship are both tested in Coward’s artfully constructed comedy. Midway, there’s one of drama’s few successful drunken scenes, surprising because the drinking’s done by women (this was 1925), hilarious in its gradual move from sober respectability and integral to the plot as the liquor’s imbibed on empty stomachs while Julia and Jane await Maurice’s arrival for dinner.
Jonny McPherson makes a distressed contrast to his golfing friend, and Ben Ingles finally reveals the French lover’s assured skill in deception. But it’s really the women’s play.
Frances Marshall’s Jane grows wildly raucous in vino veritas, Polly Lister offers a range of subtle intonations and reactions in a quietly stellar performance while Emily Tucker, as Jasmine the maid – whom everyone calls Saunders – has a comically earnest confidence incorporating an anachronistic moment of modern bartending within a playing style that, like all the acting – and Martin Johns’ set – evokes the period while providing an immediacy of humour and wry reflection on these characters’ behaviour.
Fred: Richard Earl.
Maurice: Ben Ingles.
Julia: Polly Lister.
Jane: Frances Marshall.
Willy: Jonny McPherson.
Saunders: Emily Tucker.
Director: Ian Forrest.
Designer/Costume: Martin Johns.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.
Sound: Maura Guthrie.
Musical consultant: Richard Atkinson.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight director: Peter Macqueen.