The Theatreguide.London Review
Jermyn Street Theatre Spring 2013
A classic of its genre, Frederick Lonsdale's1926 drawing room comedy mixes high style, witty repartee and just enough truth to give its satire some bite.
In the world in which people dress for dinner, a fortyish man of modest means has loved a rich widow from afar but she's not sure she's ready to settle down again, so she proposes an experiment – they'll spend a month together in her isolated Scottish home as a sort of trial marriage.
Meanwhile, a younger heiress loves an impoverished young playboy Duke, and they invite themselves along. There will be no hanky-panky – the gentlemen will retire to a local hotel every evening – but the widow and the Duke will see what their admirers are like to live with.
Of course what happens is that the testers are themselves tested and exposed as selfish, egotistical comic monsters blithely accepting adoration and being waited upon as their due.
I'm not spoiling the suspense – there's a formula here that Lonsdale follows expertly, and the fun lies in watching the good guys discover the truth about their beloveds and respond, and in the almost uninterrupted string of witty one-liners that accompanies the adventure.
Anthony Biggs' production captures all the fun in a stylish production whose only failings come in the rare lapses in pacing, moments when the dialogue doesn't crackle as crisply as it wants to.
Sara Crowe as the widow and Peter Sandys Clarke as the Duke have a lot of fun playing monsters of egocentricity completely blind to their own faults. Daniel Hill and Louise Calf as their putative mates have less flashy roles, serving largely as straight men to the others, but they do that with warmth and charm that prepares us for the moment when the truth dawns on their characters.
They quite literally don't write plays like this any more, so it is a special delight to see such a prime example done so very well.
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Review - On Approval - Jermyn Street Theatre 2013