THE SCHOOL FOR SCHEMING
by Dion Boucicault.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 17 May 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm, 13 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 10 May 3pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 May.
Splendid colour and bustle in another Orange Tree revelation.
Dion Boucicault was the opportunist of 19th-century theatre, writing social comedies that might seem out of the late 18th-century, then moving into melodrama, often drawing on his Irish roots. In a twist of fate worthy of his plays, he fought for dramatists’ copyright, then became the first person sued for breaching it. No wonder this play bustles with chancers and schemers.
It must have seemed modern in 1847, amid the development of industry, with manufacturers looking for capitalists to invest in new business – bringing ample opportunities for fraud and hedge-betting risks. And in acknowledging the new railway system.
Love is the true value, but even Imogen Sage’s sweet young Helen Plantagenet goes a long way to learn that; the temptations of money and social advantage are considerable, and it’s no coincidence matters only come together two years on, and in a foreign country, on the edge of the sea in Boulogne Sur Mer – these schemers seem always ready to skidaddle from one place to another.
In such a world, honest landlady Sally Singleheart is tricked, then pushed out of the action between start and finish. Elizabeth Healey gives her an appealing frankness in a comedy sticking to the tradition of using names to suggest character. Whatever the satire, as in Charles Dickens’ novels a good heart always needs a substantial income to put matters right. Here, it belongs to the moneylender called XY.
He turns out to have a family connection to others who might not sort themselves out. Elsewhere, there’s a finely written scene where two mature characters marry supposed wealth, only to find, with the creditors downstairs, they’re both broke. The spun-out cross-purposes are deliciously played by Paul Shelley and Sabina Franklyn, politeness barely covering the desperate need to lay hands on their spouse’s supposed funds.
Oliver Gomm is supremely comic as dapper Lord Fipley, Evelyn Lockley rose-like, including thorns in her frowns, as young Rose Lawless. But everyone acts splendidly in Auriol Smith’s fine, final production in Sam Walters’ 42-years at the Orange Tree, restoring yet another play from the national repertoire perceptively, and engagingly, to life.
Sally Singleheart: Elizabeth Healey.
The MacDunnum: Dominic Hecht.
Helen Plantagenet: Imogen Sage.
Hon Claude Plantagenet: Paul Shelley.
XY: Tony Turner.
Craven Acton: Chris Bone.
Withers/Williams: Michael Kirk.
Lord Fipley: Oliver Gomm.
Mrs Warren/Lady Augusta St Leger: Catherine Forrester.
Matilda Mountblazon: Martha Dancy.
Lady Rose Lawless: Evelyn Lockley.
Baroness Fitzjenkins: Muireann Bird.
Mrs Fox French: Sabina Franklyn.
Director: Auriol Smith.
Designer: Robyn Wilson.
Lighting: John Harris.
Choreographer: Dorcas Walters.
Costume: Sam Dowson.
Assistant director: Lewis Gray.
Assistant designer: Katy Mills.