WHEN DIVORCE WAS DISASTER
It’s 1921. Thirty years in the past Woman Kitty ran out on her MP husband Clive and small son along with his pal and colleague Hughie, exploding a public scandal of contested divorce , denied entry, two wrecked political careers and – for the responsible couple – exile within the marbled splendours of a palazzo in Florence (with insufficient plumbing, we be taught, and the corporate of ruined girls and rogues).
Now the pair are again and briefly staying within the previous household house – alongside one other of the youthful technology, the planter Teddy on go away from the Colonies and lounging in anyone-for-tennis whites. The previous home is now curated with prissy effeminacy by Clive’s son Arnold, himself an MP, and his spouse Elizabeth. It was her concept , gripped by harmful concepts of reuniting her husband with the mom he hardly knew, and of bonding with a romantic silver-haired clever lady who gave all for love. Which can be linked along with her personal craving for Teddy. So enter – bickering – Nicholas le Prevost as Hughie, grumbling about his false enamel, and Jane Asher as Kitty, no clever greyhair however a completely rouged coquette nicely previous her prime, with hair of hellish metallic ginger brilliance (Elizabeth’s, in fact, is pure auburn). Rascally previous Clive, in fact, pops up from his cottage within the grounds to trigger all doable bother in his son’s menage. Why not? Clive Francis is sneakily fantastic within the function, fancying himself as a slyly depraved previous roué, dismayed solely on the danger that his spouse may come again.
It’s fly of Tom Littler, contemporary from his final management on the Jermyn, to launch his time right here with this uncared for Somerset Maugham play: home comedy with typical Maugham undertow of actual, virtually sadistic, ache. It’s a nicely constructed emotional drawing-room thriller with sharp epigrams ” “even when males are in love, they’re not in love all day lengthy” and the sort of passionate rants fashionable actors hardly ever get to free off. Its world of tempted wives, trapped duty, unthinkable divorce , gratifying cynicism and troubling ardour is poised someplace between Wilde and Coward: between Woman Windermere and Elyot-and-Amanda.
With, as that is Maugham, an added spice of imperialism: when Teddy , a low-voiced and intense Chirag Benedict Lobo, tells Elizabeth about his home on a Malaysian hillside beneath sizzling palm timber she is fascinated, a house counties rabbit earlier than a cobra’s eye, rooks and cuckoos calling within the backyard. Casting a glamorous Indian somewhat than a gungho public schoolboy actually works. And the fading imperial period is properly guyed when the 2 previous politicians argue about the place if in energy they’d have despatched Kitty as vicereine , she explodes with disgust at Western Australia or Barbados, and cries “I would like India!”
Jane Asher has nice enjoyable with all this as Kitty, however alongside the triumphant self-importance catches fantastically the sense of trapped prosperous femininity in a world the place a protected man – one correctly tied to you by marriage – was the one assure of consolation/. When she tells Olivia Vinall’s tempted, lovesick Elizabeth – one other refined efficiency – how a lot she would lose, the dilemma is dated however feels actual: when you’ve identified the consolation of an prosperous marriage, go away it and danger being abandoned, the one possibility is nurse or typist. Pete Ashmore because the uninteresting husband catches successfully the sense of a broken soul, so you aren’t fairly certain whether or not the ruse he makes an attempt to maintain his spouse and profession is completely faux – or sadly, pathetically actual. Intelligent.
orangetreetheatre.co.uk. to 17 June