by J M Barrie.

New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG In rep to 30 July 2011.
7.30pm 23-25 June, 7-9, 12-14, 19-21, 29, 30 July Mat 25 June, 30 July 2.15pm.
Audio-described 30 July 2.15pm.
Post-show Discussion 6 July.
Captioned 19 July.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 June.

Clear-sighted production gives comedy serious colouring.
There’s often a sinister edge to the J M Barrie plays that mix social reality and fantasy, as Theresa Heskins’ New Vic revival of this early Barrie piece makes clear in the central act role-reversal when Lord Loam’s family, finding themselves shipwrecked, bow to the natural superiority of family butler Bill Crichton on their temporary island home.

The final production in the New Vic’s four-play repertory season indicates a willingness to take risks; though it’s hard to prove actors assembled for just one show couldn’t have come up with the same goods, there’s an ease in the inter-relations of the large cast which suggests the value of working in different roles, various members of the company having prominence in the different pieces.

Certainly the quiet authority of Andrew Pollard’s tall, straight-backed and almost reserved Crichton suggests someone who doesn’t feel he has to convince anyone, on stage or in the auditorium, of his place at the top of the servants’ hall or as the ‘guv’ on shipwreck island.

It allows space for others’ acceptance of his authority, and for Louise Kempton’s formerly haughty Lady Mary – reinventing herself as Polly, and in love with him – to seek his approval excitedly, while that approval is given with calm authority. Pollard’s manner gives Crichton’s views on inequality an almost fascistic tinge, while his gradually accruing island grandness has a touch of George Orwell’s Animal Farm pigs.

The cold heart discovered in this often-supposed warm comedy is marked also by the treatment of Victoria Gee’s awkward, semi-articulate Tweeny – a rank so low her employers have never heard of it – with her fondness for the butler who sees potential under her shyness.

Then he coldly leaves her when the more exciting Polly comes his way; Gee, even at the stage’s side, shows in her face the desolation of an unassertive person being emotionally deserted.

Once returned to London, the island-dwellers exist on a different plane from those who never travelled – neatly summed-up in Oliver J Hembrough’s comically woolly Hon Ernest. Not quite what might be expected from Barrie, maybe, but dramatically truthful and shockingly vivid.

Mrs Perkins/Lady Brocklehurst: Joanna Brookes.
Rev Treherne: Matt Connor.
Rolleston/Naval Officer: Richard Elfyn.
Tweeny: Victoria Gee.
Lord Loam: Paul Greenwood.
Hon Ernest Woolley: Oliver J Hembrough.
Lady Agatha: Joanna Higson.
Lord Brocklehurst/Sailor: Michael Hugo.
Lady Mary: Louise Kempton.
Lady Catherine: Emma Noakes.
Crichton: Andrew Pollard.
Miss Fisher: Natalie Hainon.
Liss Simmons: Jess Hughes.
Miss Jeanne: Sarah Cooper.
Jane: Lucy Wright.
M Fleury: Abdurahman Hale.
Thomas: Callan Durrant.
Watkins: Adam Sutton.
Rice: Matt Jones.

Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Michael Holt.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Voice coach: Mark Langley.
Choreographer: Beverley Edmunds.
Script editor: Fiona Kelcher.

2011-06-24 11:08:33

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