by John van Druten.
Finborough Theatre above Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 23 February 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 February.
Expert revival of a period piece with point.
What the many Misses in this 1931 play miss in their lives is a Mr. At the core of English respectability – a solicitor’s firm in the London street providing the title – lone women have either gone dotty with age or, when younger, play with confidence or desperation at man-hunting. Glamorously temperamental Miss Hooper, her initial mysteriously not corresponding to the first-name she’s known by, tears her hat off angrily at being delayed for lunch, then flashes her ring with a triumphant smile when she’s got her proposal. Little-seen Miss Bufton plays men to her advantage in an inconsequential social whirl.
But playwright John Van Druten focuses attention at either end of the secretarial age-range. Nineteen-year old Pat Milligan is wide-eyed at adult ways still beyond her, ripe for the office Lothario, while at 35 realistic Miss Janus chases fading hopes of marriage; it would be loveless but would still be marriage. When the prospect fades, a horrified vision of the future for a single woman of limited means and middle-class respectability bursts desperately from her.
Tricia Thorns’ production is beautifully cast and played throughout, Emily Bowker fleet and flashy as the knowing Hooper, Cara Theobald elusively superficial as Bufton, Marty Cruikshank edging to realisation of being put-off by David Whitworth’s kind yet stern Walker. Maia Alexander relies on underplayed innocence but can flare into innocent guilt when fearful of blame.
Yet Alix Dunmore’s Janus is the heart of the production. Eventually she’ll gather her resources, yet, acted with unshowy intensity, the moment her hopes collapse is a searing reminder of such women’s tragedy, inflicted by society but felt personally.
In contrast, giggling over clients’ love-letters, Jake Davies’ cheeky office-boy and Alex Robertson, plausible in Brewer’s professional politeness and attraction to young women until his vain rapacity emerges, jointly offer every reason why misses wouldn’t naturally miss them in their lives. Young Birkinshaw starts and ends matter on the ‘phone; aptly, for Thorns’ production follows the play’s slow build-up and challenging increase of pace and temperature, while ensuring the underlying frenetic pace of office life is apparent from start to finish.
Birkinshaw: Jake Davies.
Mr Brewer: Alex Robertson.
Miss Hooper: Emily Bowker.
Miss Janus: Alix Dunmore.
Miss Milligan: Maia Alexander.
Miss Willesden: Marty Cruikshank.
Hec Hammond: Timothy O’Hara.
Miss Bufton: Cara Theobald.
Mr Walker: David Whitworth.
Director: Tricia Thorns.
Designer: Alex Marker.
Lighting: Duncan Coombe.
Sound: Dominic Bilkey.
Costume: Emily Stuart.