To Get Married
Finborough Theatre Summer 2017
Here's a real find – a little hundred-year-old gem that begins as a rom-com and morphs effortlessly into a serious drama with a feminist edge.
Papercut Theatre and the Finborough are to be thanked for introducing or re-introducing us to Cicely Hamilton, activist, journalist and playwright, and for a production that brings out all the play's power.
Georgiana is a poor relative of landed gentry, carefully raised, as were all women of her class, to be uneducated, untrained and totally useless except as a trophy wife. But at 29 Georgiana is approaching spinsterhood, and the search for a husband is becoming frantic.
Eligible bachelor Adam Lankaster has shown some interest, but he seems terminally shy, and the first act of Hamilton's play is broad comedy as Georgiana and her relatives become ever more frustrated in their attempts to get him to declare himself.
He finally does, and then Georgiana makes the startling discovery of an unexpected core of morality beneath her desperation, because Adam really does love her.
To marry him just to be married would be dishonest, to resign herself to pitiable spinsterhood would be unbearable, and she simply is not equipped for any third alternative.
Just To Get Married is a thesis play, but Cicely Hamilton lays out her feminist argument in convincing and emotionally involving human terms, so the story of two attractive and sympathetic people seemingly doomed to unhappiness whatever Georgiana decides is always in the forefront and not just a vehicle for the message.
(It surely will not require a spoiler alert to admit that the playwright does find her way to a happy-ish ending that is as unbelievable as it is inevitable.)
Sensitively directed by Melissa Dunne, Philippa Quinn captures the many facets of Georgiana's emotional journey.
Beginning with the mix of half-amused cynicism about the whole marriage game and real desperation to play it, she takes the woman through the disorienting discovery of her inability to be dishonest and on to the absolute despair of knowing that doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing would both destroy her.
Jonny McPherson plays that most difficult of roles, a genuinely nice guy, and while allowing him to be lightly comic at the start, never lets him lapse into anything less than a fully rounded and sympathetic character.
The secondary characters are somewhat less well written, and the cast and director have difficulty individualising them, though Nicola Blackman has some fun with the family-leading aunt perfectly willing to play the gorgon to achieve her purely practical ends.
There is something very attractive about a play that has a message to deliver but doesn't let that get in the way of the human drama.
And there is something irresistible about a play that starts out in one direction and then catches you by surprise by going someplace else entirely, especially when it does it as skilfully and effectively as this.
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Review - Just To Get Marrried - Finborough Theatre 2017