by Somerset Maugham.

Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 18 May 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 40min Two intervals.

TICKETS: 020 8940 3633. all performances now sold out.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 May.

A Breadwinner that brings home the bacon.
Third of this spring’s three Orange Tree revivals about families and money from the first half of last century, The Breadwinner is the only one where title and playwright are likely to be familiar. The only one with a male author, it is the least intense and most playful.

Especially at the beginning where the teenage children of two families, the (soon to be embattled) Battles and the Grangers, show youthful rebellion in openly consumerist manner, detailing their growing requirements on their parents’ cheque-books. All is bright in John Harris’s lighting and elegantly patterned in Sam Dowson’s décor, as it is in Maugham’s dialogue.

Mark Frost’s tall, cheery Alfred, something in soliciting, arrives, filling the room with jovial energy. Yet he brings ominous news about Charles, a stocks-and-shares man, on the day he has to fulfil his financial commitments. A drama of impoverishment, resonating with the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s (and with Britain’s current economic slippage), seems set to ensue.

But this drama, and its crisis, are already past, as Ian Targett’s end-of-first-act entry, in top hat, the symbol of secure financial status, reveals. Yet all is not completely well, and the disgrace that will not, after all, be forced upon him, Charles willingly embraces. The material wish-lists of the new generation fly out of the window amid the shock and perplexity caused by Charles’ rejection of the London life the youngsters wish to embrace ever more closely.

Auriol Smith’s revival treats the play with the lightness it deserves, while also providing scrupulous attention to detail – though even so experienced an in-the-round director can’t disguise the advantage it would have been early on to have a clock-face prominent; 3pm is vital as the financial witching hour.

Among the fine cast, Targett brings the smiling calm of someone who’s settled their accounts with the future, while Joseph Radcliffe gives his son Patrick the confident selfishness of someone who has never to date rubbed against the edge of his privileged lifestyle, and Sarah Schoenbeck’s young Diana conveys a sense of sensibility in her concern at what is happening.

Charles Battle: Ian Targett.
Margery: Cate Debenham-Taylor.
Judy: Nathalie Buscombe.
Patrick: Joseph Radcliffe.
Alfred Granger: Mark Frost.
Dorothy: Isla Carter.
Diana: Sarah Schoenbeck.
Timothy: Jeremy Lloyd.

Director: Auriol Smith.
Designer: Sam Dowson.
Lighting: John Harris.
Trainee director: Alexander Lass.

2013-05-12 10:50:16

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