Despite being excited about his forthcoming nuptials to his beloved Sybil Merton, when a chiromantist (palm reader) predicts that Lord Arthur Savile will commit murder, Arthur decides he must postpone his wedding until after the dastardly deed is done. With his trusted butler Baines and an inept anarchist ‘assisting’ him, a comedy of errors ensues, putting Arthur’s relatives and marriage plans in jeopardy.
We were promised in the preview that this version of Oscar Wilde’s spoof mystery would have the “audience chuckling all the way home”. As the opening bars of a 1920s version of The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ echoed through Chesil Theatre, the chuckling had already started before the curtain had even opened – and continued throughout the performance!
Malcolm Brown’s superb direction and attention to detail (including his wonderful sound effects, ideal in both design and site specific locations) has ensured that the entire company are almost perfect exponents of this particular style of heightened comedy. By playing the caricatures in an earnest fashion, evocative of a combination of Jeeves and Wooster and Blackadder, the satire of this little black comedy is brought out vividly and with high entertainment value; the almost faultless pace throughout means that the performance flows at a cracking tempo, the clipped aristocratic accents from the 1920s being accurate and enhance the verbal comedy.
With such a cohesive and first rate ensemble production, it is hard to pick out individuals, but special mention should be made for Edward Gardiner in the eponymous role and Marcus Whitfield as his right hand man, Baines; both have wonderful comic timing with dialogue delivery, facial expressions and physicality, eliciting every ounce of comedy from the absurd plot. They are brilliantly supported by the entire cast, who all have their moments to shine, but most predominantly by Kim Aldridge (Lady Clementina Beachamp, Arthur’s delightfully ditzy aunt), Adrienne Ellery (Lady Winderemere, Arthur’s more haughty aunt), Karen Fitzsimmons (his scathing, mistrusting soon-to-be-mother-in-law) and Sam Burridge (the eccentric, charismatic – but with questionable sanity – anarchist, Herr Winkelkopf).
This production is set in 1925 and the set design, costumes (with the one oversight of wearing shiny shoes with a dressing gown), makeup and set dressing (particularly the splendid rug!) perfectly establish the production to be in the mid 1920s.
I believe that this production has completely sold out – so if you don’t already have a ticket, I’m afraid that you will be missing a real treat. However, if you are one of the fortunate ones to have your seats booked, then sit back and enjoy this charmingly entertaining box of delights – just avoid anything pink!