by Arthur Wing Pinero.
Stephen Joseph Theatre (The Round) To 4 January 2014.
1.30pm 2 Jan.
2.30pm 28 Dec, 4 Jan.
7.30pm 23, 27, 30, 31 Dec, 1-4 Jan.
Audio-described 4 Jan 2.30pm.
Captioned 3 Jan.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 December.
Fun and fireworks in a well-made evening.
One thing Sir Arthur Wing Pinero wasn’t bothered about in his 1866 farce was a female Victorian schoolteacher. It’s not Miss Dyott’s profession that interests him, but what she conceals. Like a husband, the ineffably self-serving Vere Queckett. And the past which catches her up – though not with fatal consequences, as in Pinero’s society dramas.
She’s soon whisked back to her former career on the operatic stage, returning only much later in comic Valkyrie guise. No wonder the music surrounding the action comes from Gilbert and Sullivan, who, within ten years, would be sharing the popular stage with Pinero’s work.
Her secret marriage isn’t the only one, it turns out. And, as her husband Vere seeks to impress an old friend on the cheap at Volumnia College while his wife’s out singing, the young ladies staying over the holidays decide they will join the party.
Presumably the gap between the respectability of the school and the stage’s suspect status provided a risqué edge for the Victorians. But it’s not the ladies who set the place alight, rather a young porter with a fondness for fireworks, adding to the improbabilities. Unlike the school, the theatre isn’t quite set ablaze by Chris Monks’ production, though it is amusingly entertaining.
Maybe we are too far from the mindset the play was written for. And Sarah Moyle is rather too reasonable for the incumbent of an establishment with this formidable Shakespearean name, while Richard Teverson is successfully relaxed in idleness, but hardly over-concerned when his tricks are close to being revealed.
It remains a pleasant way to spend a winter evening, a rarity enhanced by two fine performances.
Peggy Hesslerigge isn’t a young lady but a trainee governess, mischievous if hardly malevolent, manipulating Queckett by her lively smile and a gentle touch of blackmail. And, as a splendidly splenetic Rear-Admiral, all at sea in a peasouper, quite unaware he’s within a stone’s-throw of home, Peter Macqueen barks out lines with an assumption of command.
He provides the moments of hilarity as Catherine Kinsella’s Hesslerigge does a spirited independence. Their performances are the production’s high-spots.
Lieutenant John Mallory: Henry Devas.
Otto Bernstein/Goff: Dan Henley.
Peggy Hesslerigge: Catherine Kinsella.
Rear-Admiral Archibald Rankling: Peter Macqueen.
Miss Dyott: Sarah Moyle.
Tyler/Jaffray: Christopher Sawalha.
Reginald Paulover: Lucas Smith.
Dinah Rankling: Rebecca Tanwen.
The Honorable Vere Queckett: Richard Teverson.
Jane Chipman/Mrs Rankling: Gilly Tompkins.
Director: Chris Monks.
Designer: Sue Condie.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.