Monday, October 02, 2017


Chichester Festival Theatre

A rare chance to see the three parts of this classic trilogy in one day – fortunately, in this Chichester production, the plays are relatively brief, leaving plenty of time for refreshment and reflection.
Three plays, twelve scenes, one disastrous weekend. Simon Higlet’s design captures the old Vicarage and its garden – the table, the rug, a small water feature. A good sense of period, too – the play is set in the early 70s, when it was written: Woman’s Weekly, Mario Lanza on the HMV portable.
The six characters thrown together for two eventful days, are very recogniazable; they will recur in various permutations and elaborations throughout the playwrights career. Jemima Rooper is Annie, who spends her life tending to her valetudinarian mother – whom we never see – and wondering if the nice but dim vet Tom [John Hollingworth] will ever make a move.
She’s easy prey for her brother-in-law Norman, whose mission in life is to make people happy. A virtuosic, charismatic performance by a bearded Trystan Gravelle, though I struggled to see him as the weedy librarian.
His long-suffering spouse, the short-sighted Ruth is given a nicely rounded characterization by Hattie Ladbury. Brother Reg [a brilliant Jonathan Broadbent], who invents complicated board games that no-one plays, arrives with his wife Sarah to mother-sit while Annie [and Norman] has a dirty weekend in East Grinstead. Sarah is played to perfection by Sarah Hadland - fussing over Annie, a fixed, brisk smile, obsessively polishing the table.
Blanche McIntyre’s production is excellent in the set-pieces – the supper, the romps in the garden, but not at the expense of depth of characterization and social interaction. All the more eloquent for being given, in a first for Chichester, in the round, with extra seats behind the circular stage.

production photograph: Manuel Harlen

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