by Sylvia Rayman.

White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road SE11 4DJ To 26 January 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Sun 6pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7793 9193.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 January.

Throwing light on the dark world of the dispossessed.
It sold out in October, and now it’s selling out on its return. No wonder. As if rediscovering Sylvia Raymen’s controversial 1951 success wasn’t enough, actor Jonathan Rigby has directed a production with a good, and at their strongest deeply moving, cast.

If Raymen’s play doesn’t entirely wipe the floor with A Taste of Honey, it’s a better-structured, wider ranging account of dispossessed women than Shelagh Delaney’s. And it suggests, in title and subject, Maxim Gorky’s classic The Lower Depths.

Gorky’s depths may be lower than Raymen’s Twilight, but these women, mostly unmarried and with a child in two, fetch-up at Helen’s lodging house for shorter or longer periods in an age when most places wouldn’t accept a lone woman with a child (oh, those golden days).

From the sinister, twilit opening when innocent Christine arrives, it’s clear that smartly-dressed, clipboard–wielding owner Helen isn’t likely to be the philanthropically-minded person she claims. Hopes, tensions and conflicts develop as Helen uses a sharp-tongue, force of will and awareness of the women’s weaknesses and secrets to maintain her corrupt north London regime.

It might look back to Dickens, but also forward to a modern age where support for people in difficulty is deregulated and put out for profit. Not that Raymen, writing as post-war Labour Britain was shifting to Conservative control, states any political agenda.

It shows, though, her play is strong enough to hold a mirror to more than one generation. And Rigby’s cast create a sense of transience, and of temporary bonds being formed as the women follow various paths into sex, business or marriage.

Sally Mortemore’s Helen is a commanding monster whose callousness is increasingly revealed, along with her underling, Vanessa Russell’s loud, pugnacious Jess. It takes the authority of Maggie Robson’s Nurse, called in at a crisis, to set matters right.

But, among the varied, well-portrayed women, it is the eventual friendship of two differently bereaved women, Claire Louise Adams’ Vivianne, who thought she would never find a friend in the world, and Elizabeth Donnelly’s trusting, hopeful Christine that lets this Twilight end in a warm glow.

Helen: Sally Mortemore.
Christine: Elizabeth Donnelly.
Jess: Vanessa Russell.
Rosie: Ailsa Ilott.
Laura: Emma Spearing.
Vivianne: Claire Louise Amias.
Veronica: Amy Comper.
Olga: Francesca Anderson.
Sal: Emma Reade-Davies.
Molly: Christie Banks.
Nurse: Maggie Robson.

Director: Jonathan Rigby.
Designer: Olivia Knight.
Lighting: Jess Glaisher.
Sound: Martin Brady.
Costume: Chloe Cammidge.

2014-01-13 11:15:10

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