Theatre Summer-Autumn 2012
bad we may think that our double-dipping recession might become,
Cornelius is a chastening reminder that the Depression of the 1930s
was far worse.
While the struggles
and Murrison in J. B. Priestley's play might
be mirrored by any number of metal suppliers today, the problems of
some of the "travellers" who crossed their threshold
desperate to make a sale are outside our
experience. Thankfully, in
Britain today, there are not millions of unfortunates too poor to
afford food, despite working all of the hours under the sun.
rather manically portrays
the titular central figure, Jim Cornelius, a junior partner in this
failing business. He desperately tries to put on a brave face as a
creditors' meeting approaches which
shows every sign of being terminal for
The David Woodhead-designed
office, looking wholly
realistic as is the way at the Finborough, is filled with a
series of rather stereotypical characters. Working for Cornelius are
Biddle, a loyal cashier and amateur numerologist impeccably played by
Col Farrell, frowsy love-lorn Miss
Topham), who is more interested in the boss than her work and
Lawrence (David Ellis), an increasingly frustrated office
boy with ambitions.
The equilibrium changes with
the arrival of Miss
Evison, a temporary secretary, wise beyond her years, played with
empathy by Emily Barber, a fresh actress of great talent from whom we
will undoubtedly hear a great deal more.
This group accurately
reflect the trials and tribulations of office life in the days when
class was still a significant factor. The point is made even more
plainly with the arrival of a quartet of creditors who act as if they
own the place, although economically they probably do.
In addition to
the office politics and a triangle of unrequited love, Cornelius
addresses the issue of suicide with great sensitivity, allowing the
playwright to air
on his own personal debate for the delectation of viewers.
Cornelius is not comparable with An Inspector Calls or the Time
Plays, Sam Yates's revival is still both an interesting look at life
in the 1930s and a chance to enjoy a lesser-known piece by Priestley,
originally produced by Basil Dean at the Duchess with Ralph
Richardson in the lead
- Cornelius - Finborough Theatre 2012