By Tony Cox
Old Red Lion theatre, 418 John Street, Islington, London EC1V 4NJ to26 August 2017.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7837 7816.
Review: William Russell 5 August.
A very strange romance
It is 1949 and an ailing George Orwell is in hospital suffering from what will prove to be terminal tuberculosis. Animal Farm has been a success and Brave New World is well on the way. He wants a wife, someone to look after his adopted son and be the his literary executor.
He lights upon the beautiful Sonia Brownell, who works for Cyril Connolly at the arts magazine Horizon. It is a very strange mismatch, but he woos her and she agrees possibly having learnt she could be a rather wealthy widow. Why Orwell should think a name dropping – lunch with Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir – youngish Sloan would settle on his beloved Jura miles from anywhere is a mystery. On the other hand she is approaching thirty. But there is no denying Cox presents a rather unsympathetic portrait of her.
The wooing is entertaining, however, and Peter Hamilton Dyer gives a powerful performance as the dying Orwell. Added interest is provided by the actress playing Sonia, Cressida Bonas. She is very beautiful and her Sonia, immaculately clad, is an ice cold opportunist. One does not warm to Sonia, but one admires the performance which is very accomplished.
Edmund Digby Jones is suitably sinister as a lecherous Lucian Freud who he tries to ravish a willing, yet horrified Sonia on Orwell’s hospital bed, Rosie Ede bustles round amusingly as one of those bossy nurses who used to inhabit out hospitals, and Robert Stocks frets away as Orwell’s publisher.
It is a small play and more about Orwell than Sonia in spite of its title, but well staged and directed and very well worth catching.
Sonia Brownell: Cressida Bonas.
Edmund Digby Jones: Lucian Freud.
Nurse: Rosie Ede.
George Orwell: Peter Hamilton Dyer.
Fred Warburg: Robert Stocks.
Director: Jimmy Walters.
Designer: Rebecca Brower.
Lighting Designer: Simon Gethin Thomas.
Composer: Jeremy Warmsley.
Sound Designer: Piers Sherwood Roberts.