THE MIRROR NEVER LIES
Book and Lyrics by Joseph Giuffre
Music by Juan Iglesias
Based on The Sweet Dove Died by Barbara Pym.
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, London NW8 0FH to 18 November 2016.
Runs 1hr 30 mins No interval.
Review: William Russell 18 November.
A work in progress but where to?
To be fair this short run simply staged was really only a try out so to some extent one has to make allowances for its shortcomings. Based on one of Barbara Pym’s later novels one can see what attracted Mr Giuffre to attempt the potentially impossible. The principle protagonist, Leonora, nicely done by Fransca Ellis, is a monster creation and musicals thrive on monster leading lady roles. She is wealthy, lives probably in Chelsea in a house with rooms to spare, and can indulge in everything she wishes.
At an auction she bumps into Humphrey, a lecherous and pompous antique dealer, who sees in her the perfect peach ripe for plucking in terms of sales of useless objects and just the sort of lady he likes to bed. Unfortunately Humphrey has a pretty nephew, James – Ryan Frank singing nicely – at whom Leonora takes one look and decides he is her latest objet d’art.
What ensues is a battle over who gets the sweet dove. On the page it enthrals, but on stage the battle never really becomes one to the death as it should. Partly this is because the social mores of 1978, when it was set, simply no longer apply. Pym as a novelist is arguably every bit as clever an observer of the social scene she knew as Jane Austen was of her world, but one can play Austen as a period piece, Pym’s world is too close to today for that.
Also James, to be blunt, is as gormless a patsy as ever there was. Toy boys today, real or potential, are fully aware of the fringe benefits of having a wealthy older friend and what is expected of he who enjoys them. Humphrey’s revenge at being deprived of his victim is clever enough, and works in the novel, but in dramatic terms today it too leaves one thinking James too naive to be credible. And, while Mr Frank is a very personable lad, he is not quite gigolo material. There is work to be done, and some of it could be on the score, although Leonora does get quite a nice rueful closing aria when all her dreams are shattered and she faces up to the face in he mirror – except that today cougars thrive.
Leonora: Fransca Ellis.
Humphrey: Jon Osbaldeston.
James: Ryan Frank.
Meg: Darrie Gardner.
Colin: Spencer O’Brien.
Harold> Greg Keith.
Pheobe: Jennifer Harraghy.
Ned: Spencer O’Brien.
Stranger: Greg Keith.
Director: Joe Giuffre.
Musical Director: Joseph Finlay.