TRELAWNEY OF ‘THE WELLS’
by Arthur Wing Pinero.
Donmar Warehouse 41 Earlham Street WC2H 9LX To 13 April 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 23 Mar 2.30pm (+Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 25 March.
Runs 2hr 30 min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7624 (booking fee £2.50 per transaction).
Review: Carole Woddis 28 February.
Delightful respectful revival.
Fascinatingly, theatre fashion never stands still for long. What is deemed `new’, `radical’, or `revolutionary’ soon has to give way to new voices who, in their own turn, become establishment and thus ripe for dislodging by the next generation. Anton Chekhov alluded to this in The Seagull (1896). Two years later, in England, Arthur Wing Pinero touched on the same issue in this ebullient tribute-cum comic critique to the theatrical conventions of his time.
In modern times, Trelawney centering on young Rose, a star of the then dramatic as opposed to operatic or dance-oriented Sadlers Wells, who decides to leave the `profession’ to marry and enter the purlieus of middle-class respectability, has come to seem a bit of an old pot-boiler. The surprise is, though, depending on the director, how resilient the play can be; eight years ago, Phil Wilmott turned in a wonderfully nuanced account on the postage stamp Finborough stage.
Film director, Joe Wright (of Atonement, Anna Karenina etc), weaned on theatre via an upbringing in the Little Angel Theatre and clearly much attuned to Pinero’s delight in theatre’s backstage life, makes his directorial stage debut with a script `respectfully’ rejigged by Patrick Marber.
Marber’s contribution is discreet and seamless. There are no outrageous verbal modernisms. Any underscoring is undertaken by Wright himself who encourages Pinero’s already larger-than-life eccentric characters to be broadened a bit too enthusiastically.
But there are also delightfully inspirational moments. Ron Cook, doubling as Mrs Mossop, a theatrical landlady, and the tyrannical grandfather of Rose’s beloved, Arthur, has a marvellously eye-brow raising moment of quick-change, thoroughly in keeping with the period.
Daniel Kaluuya’s Tom Wrench, Pinero’s young playwright with an eye on subtler forms of theatre, too is a revelation. It’s doubtful whether Victorian theatre would have risen to the challenge of having a young Black author (see the Tricycle’s similarly set and award-winning Red Velvet of last year). Yet Kaluuya’s beautifully-judged performance, balancing warmth and ambition in equal measure, provides a perfect anchor. As does Amy Morgan’s lively Rose, her performance itself a testament to the coming, more naturalistic acting style.
Mrs Mossop/Sir William Gower: Ron Cook.
Mr Ablett/Captain de Foenix/O’Dwyer: Jamie Beamish.
Tom Wrench: Daniel Kaluuya.
Imogen Parrott/Clara de Foenix: Susannah Fielding.
James Telfer/Charles: Peter Wight.
Ferdinand Gadd: Daniel Mays.
Augustus Colpoys: Fergal McElherron.
Mrs Telfer/Miss Trafalgar Gower: Maggie Steed.
Avonia Bunn: Aimeé-Ffion Edwards.
Rose Trelawny: Amy Morgan.
Arthur Gower: Joshua Silver.
Director: Joe Wright.
Designer: Hildegard Bechtler.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Composer: Michael Bruce.
Movement: Marcello Magni.
Vocal coach: Barbara Houseman.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Assistant director: Hannah Price.
First performance of this production of Trelawny of ‘The Wells’ at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre London on 15 February 2013.