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Posts Tagged ‘Eleanor Bron’

This is the first of four Oscar Wilde plays in Dominic Dromgoole’s Classic Spring Theatre Company’s year-long residency at the Vaudeville. It’s a lesser performed Wilde play and it’s good to see it, and to be reminded if how sparkling Wilde’s dialogue is, and there’s the bonus of a superb cast.

Though it’s mostly set in Lady Hunstanton’s home and garden, it revolves around her friend and neighbour Mrs Arbuthnot & her son Gerald. Widow Lady Hunstanton is entertaining various members of society, including an MP, a vicar, two Lord’s, two Lady’s and a Knight! Lord Illingworth announces that he has employed Gerald as his Secretary, but when his mother turns up after dinner they realise they have history and baggage that gets in the way. What starts as a social satire gets deeper and more moralistic. A visiting American Puritan girl, Miss Worsley, gives a lecture, which doesn’t go down well with everyone, but she proves crucial to how events turn out.

It’s an old-fashioned play that gets a suitably old-fashioned production, but the dialogue does sparkle and Wilde’s plotting is very good. I liked the musical numbers between scene changes where Anne Reid showed off another talent, accompanied by four of the supporting cast on guitar, violin & clarinet. Reid is excellent as Lady Hunstanton, as is Eve Best as the more serious Mrs Arbuthnot. Eleanor Bron almost steals the show as Lady Caroline, one of the greatest nags ever written. Dominic Rowan continues to impress as baddie Lord Illingworth and Emma Fielding is terrific as feisty Mrs Allonby.

It’s a good, if conservative, production of a play worthy of revival. Hopefully, the season will up its game as it goes along.

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This Simon Gray play seems very out of character with the rest of his work, which may be why the nearest it got to London in 1999 was Watford! Though it has some of his trademark humour, it’s an unsettling and not particularly satisfying experience.

I didn’t know whether it was (Donmar Warehouse Theatre programmes really aren’t very good), but it felt autobiographical to me – post-performance research uncovered that the boy’s name is one of Gray’s middle names, Gray was also born on Hayling Island and also went to Westminster School and his father was a pathologist!

It tells the story of an eleven year old boy in the 1950’s whose parents show little genuine interest in him and are then surprised, and in one case outraged (justifiably or not is unclear), when someone else does. The lives of all of the characters are profoundly affected by the events of one weekend.

The first half tries your patience somewhat, but the (shorter) second half is very compelling. Overall, the story failed to satisfy me because of its ambiguity and uneven pace, but you can’t deny that it contains a handful of terrific performances. Eleanor Bron plays an old Austrian woman who spontaneously and seamlessly switches to speaking German when emotional and under pressure. Robert Glenister very successfully transforms from the older to younger piano teacher (and vice versa) and Peter Sullivan effectively doubles as the father and the child in later years. Helen McCrory is wonderful as the self-absorbed wife / mother. Above all there is an extraordinarily assured and subtle performance from Laurence Belcher, one of three young actors sharing the boy’s role.  

Great performance, but a flawed play I’m afraid.

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