by Daphne du Maurier.

Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 26 February 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 22 Feb.
BSL Signed 23 Feb.
Post-show Discussion 15 Feb.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 February.

Clear, sympathetic revival catches domestic change as society shifts.
Creative energy high, her marriage strained, novelist Daphne du Maurier could see women acquiring new independence during World War II, when she wrote the first version of this play. Married to wealthy warrior Michael, Diana has been the faithful wife engaged in domestic trivia.

Then Michael goes missing. The years between receipt of this news and his return see Diana opening-up to public life, becoming a popular MP, and making successful speeches.

Then, like Sarah Prentice in Agatha Christie’s later A Daughter’s A Daughter, Michael returns from the war and wants everything – from furniture to way of life – restored to its previous order. And Diana really tries, though it’s no longer natural for her.

The domestic tensions reflect those in du Maurier’s life, and come across more clearly than the vaguer political aspects. At times, Michael, with his talk of individual freedom can sound more progressive than Diana, whose speech about “duty and obedience to the state” sound unfortunately close to a Hitlerian tract.

It’s a pity director Kate Saxon’s otherwise assured production allows Gerald Kyd to veer into actorly shell-shock mode, making his final calm control over-sudden. Michael has strengths that might be more subtly revealed earlier.

There’s good work, in an all-round strong cast, from Alisdair Simpson as tall yet unassuming Richard, the neighbouring farmer who dotes on Diana, and Barbara Kirby, pitch-perfect as the loyal, friendly Nanny. Helen Goddard’s two-tier set shows the house’s classical elegance, while the bookshelves that rise to reveal windows in Michaels’ absence, before descending to cover the outlook when he returns to his books, illustrate the changes in Diana’s life.

Amid all this, Marianne Oldham is splendid as Diana, moving from subdued-colour dress and matching shoes to coolly elegant trousers, hair and expression acquiring new confidence and happiness. The tensions between new-found strength and love for her returned husband are caught in a myriad of details, including lips tightly drawn, a glance towards him, or an intense, thoughtful stare. Along with her new-found freedom of stance and manner it makes for a deeply-drawn, entirely convincing portrait of the impact of these years.

Venning: Robert Gill.
Nanny: Barbara Kirby.
Michael: Gerald Kyd.
Diana: Marianne Oldham.
Richard: Alisdair Simpson.
Sir Ernest Foster: David Verrey.
Miss Jameson: Sarah Wyatt.
Robin: Luke Nunn/Matthew Miles.

Director: Kate Saxon.
Designer: Helen Goddard.
Lighting: Matt Haskins.
Sound/Composer: Dominic Haslam.
Assistant director: Katie Henry.

2011-02-13 10:37:19

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