TRELAWNY OF THE ‘WELLS’
by Arthur Wing Pinero.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre Port-Na-Craig Pitlochry PH16 5DR In rep to 15 October 2011.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01796 484626.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 August.
Period piece despondently revived.
Like a Colossus, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero bestrode the late Victorian and Edwardian West End theatre, with one foot in serious social drama, the other in comedy and farce. This 1898 piece leans towards the comic foot, but there’s an affection too for the theatre, and particularly the largely-forgotten dramatic innovator Tom Robertson.
Robertson had himself written about the theatre; his first success was a play about 18th-century actor David Garrick. But his subsequent plays looked at social problems, and he might have been thought an English Ibsen, except he died in 1871 – and frankly hadn’t the Norwegian’s depth of perception.
One problem in Pitlochry’s revival is that the Robertson-based character, Tom Wrench, hardly registers. It would be hard to gather this was Pinero’s tribute to the man who made his own plays possible, by creating realistic social stories told with realistic acting on lifelike sets. Simple enough, old-fashioned too by now, but in its day quite revolutionary.
Though Robertson wrote mainly for London’s Prince of Wales Theatre, Pinero’s title clearly evokes Sadler’s Wells. Anyway, the Telfer management there is down on its fortunes – time’s passing it by – and matters are worse because their star attraction, Rose Trelawny, is giving up the stage to marry into society.
The production’s other problem is that it’s hard to believe Pitlochry’s Rose, prettily dressed as she is, could be the soul of a theatre company or a draw for audiences. Without a sense of natural vivacity, the middle act, where she’s under the disapproving gaze of her new family, with their stifling post-prandial routines, is comic but lacks the vital sense of Rose’s spirit crushed under social pressure.
It may be Artistic Director John Durnin set himself a near-impossible task, taking responsibility for two large-scale shows opening within a few weeks of each other. His two fellow-directors had a clear run at each of their productions. And Durnin’s My Fair Lady is a success both artistically and at he box-office.
Here though, actors who do strong work in the season’s other productions, seem to be surviving on basic technique in a collective vacuum.
Mrs Mossop: Helen Logan.
Mr Ablett: Darren Machin.
Tom Wrench: Sam Pay.
Imogen Parrott: Amanda Gordon.
James Telfer: Robin Harvey-Edwards.
Ferdinand Gould: Richard Delaney.
Augustus Colpoys: Chris Vincent.
Mrs Telfer: Jacqueline Dutoit.
Avonia Bunn: Shirley Darroch.
Rose Trelawney: Emma Odell.
Arthur Gower: Sandy Batchelor.
Sir William Gower: Charles Bell.
Miss Gower: Clare Richards.
Clara De Foenix: Kate Quinnell.
Captain De Foenix: Matthew Romain.
Charles: Dougal Lee.
Director: John Durnin.
Designer/Costume: Karen Tennent.
Lighting: Ace McCarron.
Fight director: Raymond Short.
Associate lighting: Kate Bonney.