By N C Hunter
Directed by Joanna Read
Venue: Connaught Theatre
Date: Thursday 25th May 2006
This was an old-fashioned play, not just because it was written and first produced in 1957, but because the values it expressed seemed so dated. A socialist schoolteacher, who works in a lesser public school for backward boys (goodness knows what term we would use now!) scrimping and saving to make ends meet, gets invited to Cannes for a holiday by his brother, the new husband of a relatively wealthy woman. This sets up all sorts of stresses and strains on the family relationships, especially between the teacher and his wife and him and his son.
His wife enjoys herself enormously at Cannes. She’s being entertained by a charming business man who’s inherited his wealth, and although she doesn’t fall in love with him, she’s very prepared to take full advantage of his time and companionship. The son is also keen to take advantage of an offer of work at his company. This probably upsets the father more than anything else, as his plan was for his son to become a schoolteacher. Eventually, he seems to realise he can’t run his son’s life, and accepts that he’s free to make his own choices. I did enjoy one bit where he comments on what he’s taught his son “since he was old enough to think for himself”! Seems like it’s OK to think for yourself as long as you think the same way Dad does.
There’s also his own father who’s being shuttled around between the families, although he ends up with the long-suffering schoolmaster as the flighty young Canadian sister-in-law just does not get on with him – he gets in the way of her socialising.
It was an interesting play to watch. It gave an insight into the concerns of its time, the period after WWII when ideals and materialism clashed. It would seem ludicrous now to have a character so obsessed with despising wealth and so completely incapable of having fun. But in this context it worked, and the acting was good enough to make it believable. There was good all round support, and the only drawback was that it all seemed a bit pointless – an historical debate that’s not so relevant today, but worth seeing for the different perspective.
© 2006 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me