WIFE TO JAMES WHELAN
by Teresa Deevy.
New Diorama Theatre 15-16 Triton Street NW1 3BF To 30 April 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKTS: 0844 209 0344.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 April.
Valuable revival shows how to succeed in business without learning the subtler ways of love.
When she went deaf Teresa Deevy went to the theatre to learn lip-reading. She went on to write plays that were staged by the Abbey, Ireland’s national theatre. But not this one; good Catholic though she was Deevy also had strong views which didn’t please the theatre Establishment. That was in 1937, after six successes. She then confined her work to radio and, occasionally, TV drama.
Though most of the characters here are men it’s the three women who are most clearly distinguished. And when James Whelan goes from popular village lad to running a successful local coach company, it’s a question of whether he’ll end up marrying troubled Nan, who’d fondly curled up against him when he was merely the popular local lad, maternal, plain-speaking Kate (“your Aunt Sally,” as she ruefully describes herself) or sexually predatory Nora, once his boss’s daughter, now after the main chance.
Few will think he finishes up fortunate in marriage. And Deevy gives plenty of indications how his feelings run. She also gives one of the women a monumental error of judgment that seals her from social acceptability as wife to a prosperous entrepreneur.
Whelan’s priorities are clear from the start. Nothing will stop him succeeding in life. As a boss he’s strict but not unkind, capable of peremptory commands and generous impulses. Opposed, he threatens the sack, but his main action to his employees is a spontaneous bonus.
In the coach business, it’s no deal with his rival, for he knows he can succeed in business on his own terms. After a lacklustre opening act, Mark Hesketh shows Whelan’s quietly determined authority.
Director Gavin McAlinden might revisit that act, where the men who will become the businessman’s employees are the younger Whelan’s fellows, already marking him as someone going places. It’s under-characterised. And while the main, post-interval scenes are stronger, there’s little complexity – with the exception of Ailish Symons, who conveys something of Nan’s difficulties and humiliations.
But Charm Offensive’s production lives up to the first part of the company’s name rather than the second, in putting this intriguing play on stage.
Tom Carey: Conor Short.
Bill McGafferty: Michael Ford-Fitzgerald.
Nan Bowers: Ailish Symons.
Kate Moran: Siobhan McSweeney.
James Whelan: Mark Hesketh.
Jack McClinsey: Richard Carroll.
Apollo Moran: Anthony Delaney.
Nora Keene: Karen Collins.
Director: Gavin McAlinden.
Designer: Katie Lias.
Lighting: Catherine Webb.
Composer: James Jones.
Assistant director: Helen Donnelly.