Richmond theatre continues its extraordinarily successful practice of
unearthing 'lost' Victorian and Edwardian plays with Allan Monkhouse's
drama of generation, culture and class clashes in 1911 Manchester.
black sheep of
a solidly respectable family imagines himself an aesthete in the Oscar
Wilde style, fully admitting his irresponsibility and selfishness in a
manner that somehow makes his confessions sound like boasting.
gotten one of
the maids - Mary - in trouble, and his father surprises everyone by
being more outraged by his son than by the girl, and instead of buying
her off, gives the lad the choice of marrying her or being disowned.
The boy characteristically chooses the softer path, though a further
transgression leaves the couple impoverished.
playwright, like Barrie, would have had Mary reform and make a man out
of Leonard, while a more aggressively naturalistic one would let them
sink into tragic despair. Monkhouse confounds our expectations with a
third course - Leonard remains as feckless, self-centred and
irresponsible as ever, and it is left to Mary to deal with that in a
way that is both surprising and satisfying.
who verge on melodramatic stereotypes - the outraged Victorian father,
the self-dramatising aesthete, and so on - it is much to the credit of
director Auriol Smith and her cast that they succeed as much as they do
in creating rounded and sympathetic characters.
Leonard may flutter a bit too much and Katie McGuinness takes a little
too long in showing us Mary's core of intelligence and strength, but we
believe in them and care about them. Michael Lumsden's hotheaded father
and Eunice Roberts' sympathetic mother also transcend their type
characters to become real.
experience with this in-the-round theatre, it is surprising that
director Smith repeatedly makes the fundamental error of planting her
actors solidly in one place so their backs obscure our view of the
the other hand,
the Orange Tree is the one theatre in which scene and set changes are
so beautifully choreographed and kept within the spirit and reality of
the play that you feel they should be applauded.
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- Mary Broome - Orange Tree 2011