by Sutton Vane.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 25 February 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 20min Two intervals.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 February.
A good case made for a play brought into view by the tide of theatrical fashion.
Old-fashioned bolt-from-the-blue plot-shocks are currently breaking-out around London fringe theatre. After Ayn Rand’s 1933 Night of January 16th at the White Bear comes Sutton Vane’s drama from a decade before, revived at the Finborough. While Rand’s revelation comes two-thirds of the way through her play, Vane inserts his to conclude the first of three acts.
That first act’s social comedy, darkening by degrees as a sense of mystery gathers, is jolted by what the audience and most of the characters suddenly learn. It makes the play an antecedent for the judgment-day and possible chance for renewal that J B Priestley would make a staple of several dramas, and it has Priestley’s mix of the material and spiritual.
The aftermath of Vane’s revelation isn’t felt so much immediately in a middle act where little happens beyond a predictable showing-up of the self-important rich, with sympathy added for the selfless and morally-tortured.
That’s almost a diversion before the arrival of Martin Wimbush’s expertly-played, relaxed colonial administrator of a clergyman, who has a quiet steeliness when required. He brings about the final revelation of love, and Ursula Mohan rises to its selfless ecstasy, deepening the comically chatty charwoman she’s efficiently been so far.
It’s in the lovers who might finally be given a new chance of life that Vane comes closest to Priestley’s optimism and the time-theories fashionable in the period. Tom Vane is fine as Henry, but it’s Claire Redcliffe’s Ann which impresses. Taking-over at very short notice she captures the character’s essence, nervous yet still full of life, even while reading the script. Long before the run ends she will doubtless be perfect in characterisation and lines.
Derek Howard and Carmen Rodriquez are aptly repellently forceful as the social first who end up last – and lost. David Brett’s Steward has the calm authority of awareness alongside occupational politeness, in contrast to the uncertainties of Paul Westwood’s clergyman and Nicholas Karimi’s troubled Prior.
Louise Hill’s production makes a case for Vane’s mix of psychology, social criticism and mysticism while Alex Marker’s design, transforming the auditorium into a liner’s saloon, is First Class.
Scrubby: David Brett.
Ann: Claire Redcliffe.
Henry: Tom Davey.
Tom Prior: Nicholas Karimi.
Mrs Cliveden-Banks: Carmen Rodriguez.
Rev William Duke: Paul Westwood.
Mrs Midget: Ursula Mohan.
Mr Lingley: Derek Howard.
Rev Frank Thomson: Martin Wimbush
Director: Louise Hill.
Designer: Alex Marker.
Lighting: Neill Brinkworth.
Composer: William Morris.
Costume: Gregor Donnelly.
Fight director: Ronin Traynor.