Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Chichester Festival Theatre at the Minerva

The audience walks through onto the parquet, and into another world. A stylish family home in the Kent countryside. Through the panoramic bay window, we glimpse barbed wire amongst the ripening Ravilious corn.
William Dudley's superb set design is the arena for family tragedy, as the Great War, long over, pours its corrosive legacy over Simon Chandler's cold, self-centred patriarch, his wife and his four children.
One of Somerset Maugham's greatest plays, it has not aged well. This is Priestley country, chickens coming home to roost, dark secrets and hidden desires. And the heavy irony at the close could have been Coward.
But Howard Davies and his wonderful cast make it seem a masterpiece. The text is fleshed out with a look, a pause, an inflection. The distant sound of the road, the railway and an aeroplane underline the remoteness of this backwater.
Stunningly good performances all round, especially from Stella Gonet as the mother, ready to leave the “rowdy” post-war party, from Yolanda Kettle as the youngest daughter, escaping by allowing herself to be seduced by the tweedy mature charms of Anthony Calf's Wilfred, and from Justine Mitchell as the tragic Eva, desperate to rescue Nick Fletcher's war hero, reduced to penury as his petrol station fails.
A perfect production of a timely anti-war piece, moving even in its most melodramatic moments.

Production photograph of Yolanda Kettle by Richard Hubert Smith

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