THE GREEN BAY TREE
by Mordaunt Shairp
edited by Tim Luscombe
The Jermyn Street Theatre,
16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6SJ to 21 December 2014
Tues – Sat 7.30pm. Mats Sat & Sun 3.30pm
Runs 1 hr 55mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 287 2875
Review: William Russell
Waking the dead in a splendid production
Mordaunt Shairp’s play written in 1933 enjoyed success both in London and on Broadway. It was an amazingly daring piece because it dealt quite openly with the relationship between a predatory homosexual man and the “son” he adopted as a boy – he paid his drunken father £500 for him – and what happens when the grown up boy finds a girl he wants to marry.
It does not pussyfoot about the topic, but somehow the censors in both countries did not see what was before their very eyes. Director Tim Luscombe, who has reshaped it a little, has come up with a splendid production, a fine addition to the current season at Jermyn Street of forgotten works.
Shairp’s writing is powerful and in Mr Dulcimer, the older man, he has created a glorious monster who fights tooth and nail to keep his protégé while uttering witticisms Noel or Oscar and Somerset would not have spurned. His battle with the would be bride, Leonora, is a brilliantly fought, no holds barred affair.
Poppy Drayton makes Leonora a gorgeous, feisty young woman intent on rescuing Julian, her toy boy finance, played to the hilt by Christopher Leveaux, who is even more gorgeous than she is, a spoilt, gilded youth to his fingertips.
Julian is a corrupted cherub, an idle good for nothing who has been kept all his life and cannot see why that should not continue. Does one really care whether he escapes from Dulcimer’s clutches? He is surely where he belongs. Richard Stirling is splendidly creepy as “Dulcie” but possibly slightly miscast, perhaps too young, perhaps too camp, perhaps not formidable enough. Whether Dulcimer is evil is open to question. He is, when it comes down to it, just a man in love with his beautiful creation who will do anything out of love to keep it in his possession and has the means of achieving his ends.
This is a well deserved resuscitation – the play has not been seen for some sixty years – although there is some clunky plotting. A revolver appears out of the blue towards the end for instance, which you know is going to be used by someone. However the closing scene is truly chilling and the battle of wills that precede it vastly entertaining.
Trump: Alister Cameron
Mr Dulcimer: Richard Stirling
Julian: Christopher Leveaux
Leonora: Poppy Drayton
Mr Owen: Richard Heap
Director: Tim Luscombe
Set and costumes designer: Gregor Donnelly
Lighting design: Tom Kitney
Sound design: Gareth Mcleod