by Robert Bolt.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 November.
First bloom of budding playwright revisited with some accomplished performances.
Robert Bolt’s first produced play chimes-in with several aspects of late-fifties London theatre in its standard three-act format, its middle-class southern realism and its carefully placed structural elements. Initially, too, there’s a sense of the era’s fashionable Angry Young Man – though tetchy would be nearer the mark for Tom Cherry, sitting bored at home waiting to be called-up for National Service. And the focus lies equally with his parent’s generation.
The Cherrys seem as standard middle-class as they came. Middle-aged Jim is an unhappy insurance salesman who’d like to run an orchard. Isobel keeps house and holds the family together through constant emotional expenditure, while Tom reads T S Eliot and daughter Judy looks to start her career after winning a Design award.
The domestic scene shatters as relationships increasingly strain. Tom’s indolence chafes against his father’s cheery confidence, in reality alcohol-fuelled escapism. Jim’s increasing degradation and the acts his weakness causes, provide a trenchancy that now seems over-insistent. Everything he does makes him ridiculous; everything he says lacks reality. And manipulative as his daughter’s new friend Carol is, he’s ready to be manipulated. Only mid-century mores could keep his wife with him.
Isobel, hard-working among the feckless dreamers, is the resilient survivor, beautifully performed by Catherine Kantor, with subtle and realistic gradations of anxiety, frustration, trust and hope. James Musgrave’s Tom looks impressive but does nothing apart from being rebellious (which Musgrave does very well) while Hannah Morrish’s stylish Judy seems to be slipping in her father’s delusional footsteps, crushed by a passion that could not fully express itself back in 1957 for Phoebe Sparrow’s immaculately presented, self-interested Carol.
Benjamin Whitrow’s production marshals them all with clarity. Whitrow, a splendid actor, enlivens the side role of Jim’s colleague, hilarious in his uncertainty about family tensions. But Liam McKenna’s Jim gives the game away at once, leaving little to do except reveal differing manifestations of the same weakness. It’s a tough role to bring off; Bolt was fortunate to have the great Ralph Richardson, who could express everyday fallibility while retaining a sense of wonder that, here, is sorely needed.
Isobel Cherry: Catherine Kanter.
Tom Cherry: James Musgrave.
Jim Cherry: Liam McKenna.
Gilbert Grass: Benjamin Whitrow.
Judy Cherry: Hannah Morrish.
David Bowman: Ashley Cook.
Carol: Phoebe Sparrow.
Director: Benjamin Whitrow.
Designer: Alex Marker.
Lighting: Peter Harrison.
Sound: Lucinda Mason Brown.
Costume: Janet Hudson-Holt.
Assistant director: Anastasia Osel-Kuffour.