The Children’s Hour – April 2011


By Lillian Hellman

Directed by Ian Rickson

Venue: Comedy Theatre

Date: Wednesday 27th April 2011

I haven’t seen this play before, so I don’t know if the problems I experienced were down to the writing, acting or production; possibly a combination of all three. It felt lacklustre and dated, and several of the performances were on the weak side, so not the best afternoon I’ve spent in the theatre.

The set was all distressed wooden walls to start with. There was a very tall window on the left, a door in the back wall also on the left, impossibly tall bookcases to the right of that, and another door at the back of the right wall. A sofa stood middle and left, with a desk and chair to the right of the stage, a stove front right, and there were one or two other bits of furniture around the place. It looked basic but comfortable. For the second act, we moved to a more elaborate drawing room, with panels lowered to section off the sofa area (much posher sofa), and a table with flowers on the right instead of the desk. A good design, but the changes did take a while. The final act was back in the original room, but without the comfortable bits.

The opening scene wasn’t clear to me at first, though the subsequent action explained it a little. A small girl came into the schoolroom with a book and looked around, trying out various places to sit and read, eventually finishing on the sofa. Another two girls crept in, looking over her shoulder, and then they shared the book with her, although she didn’t want them to. Finally a larger group of girls came in, there was a mad scramble to look at the book, leading to a tussle between the original girl and a bigger girl, and the book was torn. The original girl runs out, crying, I think. All of this was wordless. I suspected the book was mildly pornographic – and given their ages and the period of the play, that could mean very mild – and I was left with the impression that the smaller girl was unhappy at the school and not making friends. All of this was correct, of course, but it still didn’t help me get into the play when the opening was so unclear. And it took so long!

The actual opening scene – the first with dialogue – was nearly as bad. The girls came into the room again, only this time they’re as noisy as a bunch of young girls can be. Think St Trinian’s, but noisier. One or two actually seemed to be doing schoolwork of some sort, while others were horsing around, until their teacher, Lily Mortar (Carol Kane), came in and the lesson began to take some sort of shape. Trouble is, the dialogue was delivered so variably, that I couldn’t follow much of this scene. The teacher was no help either; she was clearly meant to be a scatty type, a former actress who was trying to instil some refinement in the girls (like Miss Jean Brodie but without the brains), but the resulting affected accent was almost impossible to make out. It took at least twenty minutes before I started to get a handle on the piece, and it had some ground to make up by then.

Finally, the main action got underway with the late arrival of the original small girl, Mary Tilford (Bryony Hannah), who presents the teacher with a bunch of flowers as part of her excuse for being late – she’d taken a walk outdoors. When the class was over, the other teachers arrive in the room, first Karen Wright (Keira Knightley) and later Martha Dobie (Elizabeth Moss). Karen spots that the flowers which Mary gave to Lily were actually retrieved from the waste bin, and not picked on a walk in the woods as Mary had claimed. This leads to an inquisition, during which Mary’s sociopathic nature comes to the fore. When she’s accused of something by an authority figure, she flatly denies it, then she complains of being persecuted, then she threatens to tell her grandmother (the school’s main benefactor), and finally she fakes a heart attack, collapsing on the floor. The teachers put her in the next room, which is Karen’s bedroom, and ask Dr Joseph Cardin (Tobias Menzies), Karen’s fiancé and Mary’s uncle, to check her out when he arrives a short while later.

In the meantime, Karen and Martha have a conversation about their situation, whereby we learn of their struggle to set the school up, the prospect of financial stability in the near future, the problems caused by Mary and how they would like to get shot of her, their dependence on Mrs Tilford, Mary’s grandmother, Karen’s imminent marriage to Joseph, and the need to sack Lily, Martha’s aunt, as she wasn’t adding to the girls’ education in a healthy way. This leads to a confrontation between Lily and Martha, where some unkind things are said on both sides, including the allegation that Martha is jealous of Karen’s marriage (true), and not for the right reasons (not yet in evidence, m’lud). I thought at the time that they were a bit rash talking so loudly when Mary, the school’s problem child, was in the next room, but then they didn’t have a lot of options if we were going to eavesdrop.

Joseph soon sorts Mary out, health-wise, but she’s still caught up in her desire to be seen as the victim of other people’s persecution, a subject she knows a lot about, as we soon learn when she’s left alone with her school chums. The teachers have decided to split Mary and her two friends up, as she’s a bad influence on them, which only fuels Mary’s persecution complex. She decides to run away to her grandmother’s house, and in order to get some cash, she intimidates one of her friends quite brutally, showing us an even less pleasant side of her personality. She is brought the cash and her coat in mime at the front of the stage during the scene change, which helped to while away the time.

At Mrs Tilford’s town residence, Mary is greeted by Agatha the maid, and about the only person in that household who has their head screwed on straight. She isn’t taken in by Mary’s story of being ill, although she clearly cares for the girl, but it’s the grandmother that Mary has to work on, and she does this with a predatory instinct, feeling her way into an allegation that will make her grandmother carry out the revenge that Mary herself is not capable of, through lack of years rather than lack of malicious intent. Once roused, Mrs Tilford (Ellen Burstyn) acts swiftly, too swiftly for her own good. She tries to call the teachers, presumably to check on their side of the story, but as they’re not available, she decides to call her nephew, Joseph instead. He’s busy – he is a working doctor, after all – and this leaves a worried Mrs Tilford alone with her emotions, clearly not a sensible option for the women in this family. Instead of staying calm, she starts phoning round the other pupils’ parents, and before you know it, the school is defunct.

Long before Joseph comes round to help his aunt, several girls have been removed from the school, and one of them, Rosalie Wells (Amy Dawson), arrives at Mrs Tilford’s house to stay overnight as she can’t travel back home until the next day. Mary gets to work on her immediately, threatening to tell about all about Rosalie’s theft of another girl’s bracelet unless Rosalie backs Mary up in whatever she says. Nasty piece of work, this Mary. Rosalie agrees, and then the girls are taken into another room for milk and cookies, or whatever, and the adults start arriving for the major confrontation of the play.

Naturally, Joseph is appalled at his aunt’s actions, and the teachers, who show up and force their way into the house, are both angry and confused. They have no idea of the cause of this calamity, and when they find out they’re shocked and even more angry. They threaten legal action, while Mrs Tilford stays aloof and self-righteous – what had been a possibility is now downright certainty in her mind. Joseph does his best to instil some sanity into proceedings, but there’s no scope for rational discussion at this point, and finally he has to reject his grandmother and her nonsense totally. Of course, they insist on checking things out with Mary, who sticks to her story, despite clear proof that she couldn’t have heard or seen what she claims to have heard or seen. When it looks like things might go against her, she pulls out her ace in the hole, Rosalie. At first, with Mary behind her and out of her eye line, Rosalie scoffs at the possibility of any wrongdoing between Karen and Martha, but when Mary comes forward and makes it clear she wants Rosalie to back her up, we see an about-turn so fast it must have left friction marks. Rosalie is desperately upset about the whole thing, but the damage is done. Mrs Tilford is a believer again, and the stage is set for somebody’s downfall.

The final scene is back in the schoolroom, stripped down to the bare essentials. Martha and Karen have apparently lost their case for slander, the school is no more, and the two women are in a kind of internal exile, unable and unwilling to venture out to face the hostility of the local community. A succession of visitors allows us to piece their story together, including a local delivery man who brings them food, Joseph, Lily and Mrs Tilford. Lily’s arrival isn’t welcome; she avoided the trial, and so her crucial testimony was missing, leading to the collapse of the teachers’ case. Both women are hostile to her, and I can’t say I blame them. Joseph is more upbeat – he’s arranged for all three of them to move out west and start new lives on a farm. Martha heads off to make them some food, while Karen and Joseph have to face what lies between them. She pushes him to ask her if the allegation was true, and although she tells him it wasn’t, and he appears to accept that, it’s clear their relationship is on rocky ground. Personally, I felt that was more to do with her neurotic personality; she didn’t seem willing to deal with her situation and build a new life for herself, while Joseph seemed to be working hard to make things better for both of them.

With his departure, Karen has decided that it’s all over, and she’s going to be living in that house for the rest of her life, unloved, neglected, and miserable as sin. When Martha comes back in, all spruced up to enjoy a celebratory meal, she soon realises what’s happened, and finally we get the revelation that would come as no surprise to anyone who’d stayed awake this far – Martha feels guilty because she’s realised she did have some ‘forbidden’ feelings for Karen. Despite seeming the more balanced of the two, it’s Martha who heads into the next room to top herself, so when Mrs Tilford turns up, at the death so to speak, it’s too late for forgiveness, on her part or anyone else’s.

The audience reception was much warmer than my own response, and I’m glad they enjoyed it. I found it lacking in real interest; the false allegation drama has been done better (The Crucible), and lesbianism is no longer the unmentionable taboo it was in the 1930s, although to be fair we aren’t exactly overflowing with plays on the subject either. Elizabeth Moss and Ellen Burstyn gave good performances, but I found Keira Knightley a bit weak. I couldn’t get a handle on her character, who seemed to be strong one minute and fragile the next. Tobias Menzies did a good job as the doctor/fiancé, and Bryony Hannah was fine as Mary, but I think the best performance in many ways was Amy Dawson as Rosalie, completely believable as a pre-pubescent swot with deep insecurity. If the delivery of lines had been better from the start, and the opening, silent, scene more accessible, I might have enjoyed this more. As it was, I’m glad I’ve seen the play, but I won’t be champing at the bit to see it again.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at

Mary Broome – April 2011


By: Allan Monkhouse

Directed by: Auriol Smith

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Saturday 16th April 2011

How do they keep finding these amazing, neglected plays? This was another gem from the Lancashire school of tell-it-like-it-is, 19th century playwrights, such as Harold Brighouse (Hobson’s Choice), and Stanley Houghton (Hindle Wakes), who, thanks to the program notes I now know were nurtured by Annie Horniman, but enough of that. This play throws a Wildean cuckoo into a no-nonsense businessman’s family, and a great of the humour comes from the ensuing culture clash.

The opening scene quickly establishes that the father, Mr Timbrell, and one son, Edgar, run the business, while the other son, Leonard, is a wastrel whom the father supports in order to keep him out of the family firm. Edgar is due to marry Sheila, a Thelma-in-the-making (Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads), and there’s also a sister, Ada. With these facts before us, it’s no time at all before we’re into the first family confrontation. Leonard, left alone briefly in the drawing room, is joined by Mary, the family’s maid. They’ve obviously had a fling of some sort, which is why Mary took a picture of Leonard that was by his mother’s bed. When his mother arrives clutching the picture, which she’s clearly found through searching Mary’s things, they’re about to have a small scene together when the rest of the family bursts in, and through various little comments it all comes out. Father is one of those bull-in-a-china-shop type of men; once he knows something’s going on he wants to have it out, regardless of the consequences. Mary keeps being told to leave, then told to stay; finally she speaks up for herself, as she wants to know what Leonard’s going to say. Ada and Sheila are sent out of the room once Mary’s impending motherhood comes out, but with ears and eyes competing for the keyhole, they don’t miss much. There’s a lovely moment after Leonard tells Edgar he doesn’t need to be there, and their father says, no, you stay – the look of triumphant smugness on Edgar’s face was a joy to behold, and got a huge laugh.

The story is a simple one – Leonard has got Mary pregnant – but the handling of it is hilariously funny. Leonard represents the Aesthetic Movement attitude, looking only for the beauty in life and heaping scorn on the mundane, practical, conventional and materialistic. He’s a writer, but earns very little for his writing, as he can’t bear to taint his art with mere monetary considerations. Mary can’t understand half the things he says, but wants to know if he loves her, even though she doesn’t expect him to marry her, class being what it was. The father, on the other hand, decides that Leonard’s off-hand manner about the whole affair is totally wrong, and issues an ultimatum – marry the girl or he’ll cut off Leonard’s allowance. With a bit more to-ing and fro-ing, the deal is done, and the couple agree to marry.

To make his point, the father had asked Ada to fetch the family bible – this is when the proximity of Ada and Sheila became apparent. The tradition was to write all the family events into their bible, and so the father prepares to inscribe Leonard and Mary’s names as soon as the proposal is accepted, never mind the prior claims of Edgar and Sheila. He’s so keen, in fact, that the word ‘yes’ has scarcely escaped Mary’s lips, and he’s already dipping his pen into the ink to make the entry – another good laugh, followed by more when he has to ask Mary what her surname is.

The next act is set in the same room, on Christmas Eve. The family are having a little get-together, with a couple of family friends invited as well. Mary and Leonard are over-dressed, and for once even I could see this – all credit to the costume designer. The situation is slightly awkward, and despite all efforts to avoid unpleasantness, Leonard just has to keep sticking his oar in. He makes some oblique reference to his mother having a past life – nothing terrible as far as I could see – which got his father very angry. He cuts Leonard off, despite his having to support a wife and new baby, and storms off to dinner. Incidentally, the dinner was delayed because there had been a fall of soot in the dining room which had to be cleared up. When the maid reports this, Mary makes a comment about the problems with that chimney, which reminds everyone of her origins. But for that fall of soot, the conversation may never have got round to people’s hidden depths, and the rest of the play may never have happened – very Dangerous Corner.

The third act is set in a small part of the stage (yes, I know – how could anything be smaller than the Orange Tree stage!) with towels drying on a rack by a small stove, a sofa and table and not much else. Leonard and Mary are clearly in difficulties, and his flippant manner, which seemed charming in the drawing room, seems churlish and almost obscene at times in this setting. Their child is sick, and with no money for a doctor, never mind food for the baby and Mary herself, the situation is pretty serious, and Leonard’s attempts to lighten the mood show up the shallowness of his approach. Mary’s parents arrive, and her mother was pretty upset when she found out that Mary lied to them about leaving for Canada, when she was in England all the time. Mrs Timbrell also arrives, and with her help – she hands over her engagement ring for Leonard to pawn – they can get the doctor to look at the baby.

It’s all too late, though. The final act, a short while later, has Mary coming to the Timbrell house to tell them she’s leaving for Canada with the man she had been seeing before Leonard got her pregnant. They’re off to start a new life together, and the best of luck to them. It’s not long after the baby’s funeral, and it’s pretty shocking to find that Leonard contrived to be absent from that family event. Sheila is now pregnant and worried about having been unkind to Mary – she does at last seem to have learned some manners. Mr Timbrell is contrite enough to be willing to support Mary again – if he hadn’t cut them off, the little boy would still be alive – and Leonard is willing to make another go of it, but she surprises them all with her announcement. Only Mrs Trimbell understands, and is supportive. It’s a slightly low-key ending, compared with some of the strong about-turns of similar plays, but it fits with the characters we’ve met.

The performances were all excellent. I especially liked the nosy neighbours, who were only too happy to enjoy the family’s discomfort at the pre-Christmas dinner party. Jack Farthing as Leonard and Katie McGuiness as Mary were particularly good, and the play itself has lasted pretty well.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at

Mr Maugham At Home – April 2011


By: Antony Curtis

Directed by: Ninon Jerome

Venue: Mill Studio, Guildford

Date: Friday 15th April 2011

I’m getting very fond of one-man (or woman) shows at the Mill Studio. We’ve seen some lovely performances here, and although historical accuracy can’t be guaranteed, I’ve at least gained additional information and insight into the lives and times of some very interesting people.

Tonight it was the turn of W Somerset Maugham. Of course, I knew the name, and I’ve seen several of his plays (The Letter, The Circle), but I haven’t read any of his novels, and I knew very little about the man himself and his life. The writer, Anthony Curtis, actually met/knew Maugham, having fallen in love with his work at an early age, and since he has been closely involved in documenting Maugham’s life and work, I suspect this piece could be described as accuracy tempered with great affection. I certainly enjoyed it, and that was partly down to the writing, and partly due to an excellent performance by Anthony Smee (you don’t have to be called Anthony to work on this production ….).

The set had an ironwork bench to the left, with matching table and chair in the centre, and a desk with a seat and a comfy chair to the right. The desk had books scattered in it, plus a doctor’s bag and microscope – these became clear when Maugham was describing this part of his life – and there were assorted jackets placed here and there, as well as several hung on the coat stand behind the central table. To the right of that hung the famous Sutherland portrait of Maugham, and we learned that this was the first portrait Sutherland attempted; after that it became a trend.

The story was told in a mixture of time frames. As we entered, Maugham was sitting at the table, drinking tea and occasionally dealing the cards for the game of patience he was playing. At other times he would look around, not completely ignoring us, but not engaging with us either, and his expression would register a prissy fastidiousness from time to time. It was no surprise when spoke directly to us, as visitors to his villa in the south of France. He was a charming host, entertaining us with the story of his life, from his birth in the maternity unit of the British embassy in Paris in 1874, through the death of his mother followed two years later by his father, then the unpleasant spell with his religious aunt and uncle, and so on. The phone rang from time to time, and, apologetically, he answered it. From his side of the calls we gleaned two pieces of information; one, that he had a companion called Gerald whose gambling and absence were a great trouble to Maugham, and that WWII had just broken out.

As we moved through the different time zones of his life, Maugham changed jackets to reflect the styles of the time and his own personal choices. This helped a great deal, as the ongoing ‘current’ story shifted from the start of the war through his leaving France and returning to Britain, then his time in the US, followed by much foreign travel and his final, temperamental old age with the post-Gerald companion, Alan. The older story was also woven into this; his time at Heidelberg university, his abrupt decision to study medicine – that got laughs – his impulsive White Knight marriage, his stint as a medical orderly at the start of WWI, followed by a secret mission to Russia, which ultimately failed, but appears to have made him popular with those in power. And, of course, there was also the writing success, fame and friends to squeeze into this packed biography.

Not having seen much of Maugham before, I couldn’t tell how accurate Anthony Smee’s portrayal was, but it seemed both detailed and sympathetic to me. He caught the stammer, often no more than a hesitation, perfectly, and as Maugham commented on this himself, that was fine. He certainly didn’t hold back with the temper tantrums at the end, showing us an old age filled with insecurity, which isn’t unusual, sadly. Still, the overall impression was of a man it would be pleasant to spend time with, whose talents led to a rich, full life and a large body of interesting work. A very enjoyable performance.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at

Frankenstein 1 & 2 – April 2011


By: Nick Dear, based on the novel by Mary Shelley

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Dates: Tuesday 12th and Thursday 14th April 2011

This was another amazing experience from beginning to end. As we were taking our seats, I noticed the mirrored panel hung from the ceiling, with a myriad of light bulbs hung from it. Some were the old fashioned type, some the low energy ones, and some had old-fashioned shades on them. We speculated that there could be all sorts of interesting effects with this set up, and we weren’t wrong.

The set, in fact the whole auditorium, was swathed in textured paper, which reminded me of the set for Fram, and immediately created the impression of an arctic wilderness. Since we knew where the story would end up, that made sense. A large bell was hung over the central aisle, just in front of the balcony, and from time to time one of the cast rang it – boy was it loud! There was background music as well, those low-pitched, thrumming sounds that seemed familiar as a way of suggesting menace, often with an industrial/technological aspect. What I realised second time around was that there were other sounds as well, muffled as from a distance – a man talking, people singing, and then I got it. This was a church service, presumably the reason for Frankenstein’s absence, and an extra nuance to the birth scene – born on a Sunday, during a church service.

I also spotted a coat hanging over on the left wall, but the centrepiece of the initial setting (look away now if you don’t want me to spoil the surprise) was a wooden frame with an artificial womb attached, made of leather or some sort of skin. The strips of skin were cunningly crossed over each other to create a pouch, and inside that pouch something was stirring.

Outside, we’d seen the sign about the auditorium not being opened till fifteen minutes before the performance, and Steve knew right away that meant someone would be on the stage at the beginning. So we weren’t surprised by this so much as enthralled by the imagery. Also, we couldn’t remember which way round we’d booked for these – would it be Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller emerging from the womb today? (It was Benedict first, then Jonny.)

Whoever it was, we could just see that they were writhing about very slowly within the womb, with the occasional hand or foot being pressed against the skin and becoming easier to see. The frame was on the revolve, and moved round quite a bit during this pre-performance performance, ending up on the right hand side of the stage. With the audience all settled in their seats (we were warned to come early), the lights went down, and the sound of a heartbeat started. Next thing, the lights in the overhead panel lit up, flashing across the ceiling, and the creature began to emerge from its pouch, first one arm, then another, jerkily responding to the lightning flashes until it flopped out completely onto the floor.

The next section was an extended session of movement work. First twitching, then flailing, the creature began to move across the stage, attempting to get its body to do something, but was it remembering movement, or was it finding out for the first time? It became quite painful to watch its struggle, and then gradually it managed a greater degree of control, and started to get to its feet. Naturally, there were failures at first, but the creature’s determination finally got it up and walking, albeit in a very strange way. We also had the first chance to laugh, not so much at the creature, but at its delight at being able to walk, and its comical gait.

With great delight, the creature began to run around the stage, finally collapsing back down near the pouch, and it’s at this point that Frankenstein arrives. He goes over to the creature, presumably thinking it’s fallen out of the pouch, and is horrified when it moves. (What did he think he was making in his lab? It’s not as if he hasn’t seen it before.) Snarling at it to get back, and obey him, he throws his coat over it and runs off. Not a nice man, then.

The poor creature only wanted some affection, some nurturing, but sadly life isn’t always that kind. He manages to walk out of the lab – the location isn’t as specific as some of the later scenes – and then we have the only bit that I didn’t care for so much in this production. The heavy beat of the music starts up, and a mechanical doodly-whatsit appears through the central doors at the back. It has large cog wheels, emits a great deal of steam, and the various cast members are riding it or walking beside it. I had no idea what was meant by this – it all seemed very surreal, although afterwards I reckoned it represented the town of Ingolstadt.

Second time around I found it much clearer. The contraption appeared to be a train, and when it stopped the workers jumped off and started using their hammers. Sparks streamed out from under the train, and then the work stopped and the men and women lined up as the train was moved back. The women appeared to be prostitutes, and one of them, who was having a bit of client trouble, is grateful when the creature scares that man off. Mind you, she’s not too keen on the man in the cloak when she catches sight of his face, and as he’s not yet able to speak properly, it’s perhaps understandable that they see him as a monster. We, on the other hand, are very much on his side. I know I was.

When the mechanical gubbins is removed, there’s a strip of grass laid down the centre of the stage. Now the creature gets to experience the countryside, starting with the dawn, using lights and a large orange disc on the back wall. Then some birds fly up from the bushes, singing beautifully, and he gets soaked by a shower of rain. He’s been trying to find something to eat, poor lad, and he even tries the grass, but spits it out immediately. (Second time around, he eats it with pleasure, then takes a dump.) He finds a book in one of the coat pockets, and can’t eat that either, although he does find out that it has pages.

Later, some men come along with a fire and cooking pot, and once he’s scared them off, he tries his hand at eating the meat. Finding the pot too hot to handle, he realises that the spoon is touchable, and although the meat is also very hot, he does at least get some food down him. The fire dies down, and he uses the bag the men left as a pillow and falls asleep. The men come back with sticks, though, and give him a beating, before taking their stuff away, so again he has to move on. (Second time around, I noticed he gets some clothes from the bag as the men are grabbing it from him.)

A see-through hut appears beside the grass, and we meet the old, blind man and his son and daughter-in-law. While the couple go off to clear a field of stones, the creature sneaks in and finally finds someone who isn’t terrified of him. This section shows the creature learning to speak and to read. There’s humour in it, with some of the creature’s comments, and the standard of his reading matter – Milton’s Paradise Lost, for example – but then his teacher was a university professor, so naturally he focuses on the classics.

The creature also sees the young couple kissing and canoodling, which leads him to fantasise about a possible partner for himself. A ‘rock’ appears at the front of the stage, where the walkway down the central aisle meets the stage, and metamorphoses into a beautiful woman, though made up and dressed to resemble the creature. She dances with him, he dreams, and then she’s gone.  This situation holds out the possibility of a better life, but sadly, despite the old man’s promises, the son and daughter aren’t so ready to accept the creature, and drive him off, thinking he’s a threat to the old man. One disadvantage of having learned so much from the classics is that the creature’s role models are dramatic kings and heroes, whose natural inclination when faced with an attack or injury is to fight back and revenge themselves. And so the creature commits his first crime; he burns down the hut with the family inside.

Having learned to read, the creature now knows from the book he found in the coat pocket, that he was ‘made’ by Victor Frankenstein, who lives in Geneva. He immediately heads for that city, and the set shifts, with the hut removed and the grass covered by wooden paths which are lowered down to the stage. As this is being set up, there’s a little group at the front of the stage, some adults and children, and one of the women puts a blindfold on one of the boy’s eyes. They head off and re-emerge on one of the wooden walkways – they’re off to play a game of blind man’s buff. When the boy is left on the end of the walkway, the creature appears, and again the child isn’t afraid of him, although as he’s told not to turn round, he doesn’t actually see the man he’s talking to. When the creature finds out that the boy is William Frankenstein, Victor’s brother, he snatches him as a means of getting to Victor.

The rest of the party are soon out looking for the boy, along with Victor and William’s father. Victor is remarkably tactless, telling his fiancée, Elizabeth, that she was responsible for losing him. Given that he’s spent all his time skulking in his room since coming back from Ingolstadt, you’d think their relationship would be on the rocks, but amazingly, Elizabeth is still keen to marry the man. Anyway, the boy’s body turns up in a boat that floats over to their side of the lake, and there are pages from Victor’s missing journal beside him. Victor knows what he has to do.

He heads up the mountain, and soon meets up with the creature. This encounter is pivotal, and was very well done. A semi-circle opens up on the revolve, at the back, presumably to represent a crevasse or cliff, but otherwise, the stage is bare. (The grass strips were taken up with the wooden walkways.) Victor and his creation meet, fight, argue, and eventually, whether by accident or design, the creature provides Victor with the perfect temptation, the chance to create another living being, but this time, to get it right! Pride was always his downfall.

Their debate covered some interesting areas, such as the responsibility of the scientist toward the repercussions of his work, and how responsible the creature could be for his actions, given the lack of nurture and education when he was ‘born’. Frankenstein certainly comes across as a callous, arrogant chap, with a great mind perhaps, but little understanding of the consequences of his actions, and a tendency to pin the blame on others when things go wrong. The creature has difficulty handling his emotions, and lashes out in a rage when he doesn’t get what he wants, but then he is a child, despite the adult body, and needs guidance to help him adjust to his own peculiar brand of life. Overall, my sympathies were with the creature, and my only regret is that Victor doesn’t get his proper comeuppance at the end.

However, he does agree to the creature’s request that he make another creature, a female one, so that his original could have a companion. Only we know that he won’t keep his promise, you can just tell. With this promise, the creature agrees to leave Victor and his family alone, and scampers off up the mountain. Victor heads off, and personally, I thought this would a suitable place for an interval, but I’m not directing the piece so I don’t get a say.

Victor goes straight back to his father to inform him that he, Victor, is leaving immediately. Never mind the death of his brother and the funeral, never mind his fiancée, whom he’s kept waiting for five years already, he’s off and that’s that. His father does at least insist that Victor give the news to Elizabeth himself, which is how I know that she’s still keen to marry him. Poor girl. She’s even willing to go with him and help with his studies, despite her lack of education and not knowing one end of a Bunsen burner from the other. Turning down her offer of help, rather churlishly I thought, he does at least promise to come back and settle down with her, and even give her some regular kids, but with his track record? At least we now know he’s off to Oxford, to study in the libraries there, and then to Scotland, a terrible place, completely unsuitable for a young lady. How we laughed. So when the revolve turns again, and his father’s study (with a strangely sloping floor) moves round to the back, it’s no surprise to see a stone built Scottish cottage emerge from the gloom.

Once arrived, Frankenstein’s first action is to enquire of his two helpers where he can get a supply of freshly dead women. An unusual request, which troubles the younger man, while the older one is keen to have his conscience assuaged by the assurance that it’s all for medical research which will be of great benefit to humanity. That, and a purse of money, seals the deal.

At the dead of night, and right at the front of the stage, they exhume the body of a recently deceased young woman, and take her off to Frankenstein. Soon, we see a familiar wooden frame appear in the cottage, and the figure draped on it is unmistakably female. When there’s a knock on the door – a final delivery of fresh body parts – Frankenstein quickly conceals his work with a blanket. Then, as he rests, he has a dream where his brother, William, rises out of one of the sacks just delivered and questions Victor about his work. He asks a lot of questions, and gradually they come round to the area that concerns Victor most – will the creatures be able to breed (Victor supposes they will), and what will happen when they do? This is clearly a case of Victor’s subconscious trying to get a message through to his waking mind, and for the first time it seems that Frankenstein is starting to consider the consequences of his actions.

When the creature arrives, bounding into the room through the crumbling roof, he’s delighted with the she-creature, not yet fully animated, but able to walk already. Victor questions the creature about love (I did wonder what the man knew about the subject – we’ve seen precious little evidence of that quality in his character so far) and finally seems satisfied that the creature really does have the capacity to love his future companion.

Telling the creature to wait while he completes the animation process, Frankenstein takes her back behind the screen to finish the job. With the dream fresh in his mind, however, he’s decided that the risk of these creatures breeding and populating the world with what he presumably regards as ‘corrupt’ offspring was too great, and so he kills the woman rather than giving her life and the creature his companion. Naturally enough, the creature doesn’t take too kindly to this, and swears to revenge himself on Victor’s own beloved. Finally, Victor sees the danger to Elizabeth, and instantly decides to rush back to Geneva and marry her.

Back in Geneva, the study has now become the bride’s bedroom, where Elizabeth is preparing to receive her new husband on their wedding night. There’s some humour in the conversation with her maid, and then Victor sweeps in with two armed guards, not the usual companions for an eager new husband. He’s made sure that the grounds have been thoroughly searched, there are guards everywhere, and yet instead of staying with Elizabeth to enjoy their first night together, he’s off again the check the perimeter, or some such. (Second time round, I got that he intends to kill the creature first, before enjoying a night with his new bride. And they called the man a genius.)

I was totally surprised when, after he left and Elizabeth was on her own, the creature leapt from the bed where he’d been hiding under the covers. A good trick – I certainly didn’t spot it in advance. He grabs Elizabeth to stop her screaming, but lets her go when she promises to be quiet. This is the first time he’s spoken to a kind person since the old man, a long time ago, and she’s probably the first to treat him kindly despite his looks. Even so, he’s too strongly hooked on revenge for her kindness to have any effect. After admitting that one of the hard lessons he’s learned is how to lie, he throws her on the bed and rapes her. Frankenstein rushes in at this point, but instead of shooting the creature, stands there in horror, giving the creature time to finish the job by killing Elizabeth, after which he pulls up his trousers, and escapes. Victor is keen to take Elizabeth to his room, where he knows he can revive her, being so recently killed, but his father and the other attendants restrain him, thinking him mad. So Elizabeth is gone forever.

The final scene is in the arctic. The creature arrives, puts down his bundle, and takes out some silverware for a meal. With the central revolve now lowered, there’s a flat surface for Frankenstein to drag his sledge over. (In fact, he and his sled rise up as the flat stage is replaced.) All the while the creature is explaining the situation, how he left Geneva and travelled over Europe, through Russia, up to the frozen expanse of ice and snow, with Frankenstein always following. Now he’s caught up again, he can eat the food the creature has put out for him, but the effort seems to be too much, and he’s suddenly still. The creature cradles him in his arms, feeling the loss of the only person in his life, and tries to revive him with the wine. No response. The creature grieves, and then Victor suddenly comes back to life, and the chase continues. This time, as Victor follows the creature off the back of the stage, they’re heading towards a brilliant display of lights, shining in our eyes through the door at the back. Rapturous applause.

And so to round two. Of course, the first time round was always going to have the benefit of surprise, and the second viewing didn’t have the same emotional charge as a result, but then I did get more out of the piece the second time around, and I find that it’s those performances that have stayed with me more.

I’ve mentioned some of the differences above, so now I want to concentrate on the variations in the central performances. I felt both actors did a good job of both parts. I know some people commented on the wig that Jonny Lee Miller was wearing, but it didn’t bother me. Benedict Cumberbatch had opted for a bald cap to play the creature, so that he had his own hair for the part of Frankenstein, while Jonny Lee Miller had gone the other way – fine with me. Benedict’s creature seemed to have less personality, and took considerably longer to find his feet, literally and metaphorically. His opening sequence of learning to move took several minutes more than Jonny’s version, and was harder to watch. Benedict’s creature seemed to be more of a blank slate for a longer time, and I think there was less humour as a result. Jonny’s creature developed quicker and had a more recognisable personality sooner, which engaged my sympathy on a personal level, whereas first time round I was sympathetic in a more general sense, as I would be for any creature that was treated so badly.

As for the Victors, Benedict’s version was more about the intellectual challenge, while Jonny’s was stronger in terms of the arrogance – I really didn’t like his Victor as a person, while I might have got on with Benedict’s, at least for a short while. I’m still not sure why Frankenstein doesn’t shoot the creature during Elizabeth’s rape and murder, but from the second performance I’ve reckoned that he may not have been willing to kill the very being he, and he alone, has created. Arrogance again.

So overall this was a doubly fantastic experience – not only a really good version of the Frankenstein story, but two slightly different interpretations of it. Brilliant.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at

Flare Path – April 2011


By: Terence Rattigan

Directed by: Trevor Nunn

Venue: Theatre Royal, Haymarket

Date: Wednesday, 6th April 2011

We saw a touring production of this many years ago; not a great production and the play didn’t strike us as one of Rattigan’s best. We’re very fond of Rattigan’s work, so we came to this performance with the best attitude – we didn’t have high expectations, but we were keen to see the play again in a more powerful production, to get a better sense of its scope.

Personally, I was gone long before it started. About twenty minutes before the off, they started playing 1940s swing numbers to get us in the mood. I didn’t recognise any specific songs, but the period feel was perfect. Then I started reading the program notes, about Rattigan’s own wartime experiences and the strategy of the bombing campaign against Germany. I had to clean my glasses again, they’d become all mucky from my tears.

And there were more tears to come, for all sorts of reasons. The play started quietly enough, with an almost empty set, the residents’ lounge of the small country hotel where all the action takes place. There was a door to the lounge bar front left, with the light switches beside it, further back was the reception desk, and back left was the main door. The stairs were back right, and between the door and the stairs was the enormous window, all carefully taped up in case of bombs. On the right was the fireplace, and there were lots of chairs and tables scattered around. Above this main set, there was a panel which showed pictures of the take offs, including the final, fatal one. There were also many sound effects of plane engines – thank God they didn’t use Lancasters or I’d have been well sodden before the interval.

The play began with the arrival of Peter Kyle, a famous film actor, born British but now an American citizen. He’s recognised fairly quickly by the only other person in the lounge, Doris, otherwise known as the Countess Unpronounceable (Skriczevinsky). She’s not Polish herself, but is married to a Polish pilot, Johnny. She persuades Mrs Oakes, the hotel proprietor, to let Mr Kyle have a room for the night – even though we’ve established that the hotel is full, she grudgingly lets Mr Kyle sleep in the Wing Commander’s room, but makes him promise not to touch any of the Wing Commander’s things.

This scene is a marvellous combination of different facets of life at that time. Eager for news (aka gossip), Doris is bright and chatty one minute, then when she hears the sound of engines she becomes brisk and businesslike, with a strong sense of underlying tension. It could seem an odd shift, but here it worked brilliantly to take us into the characters’ world without a lot of explanation. Fortunately, with Peter Kyle being an ex-pat, so to speak, there were plenty of opportunities to explain RAF slang to everyone when needed, and although many of the terms are familiar now, I found it helpful to be reminded that these words and phrases were just being coined.

The other characters start arriving, and soon we’ve met rear gunner Miller, his wife Maudie, Johnny the Polish Count, Teddy Graham (a bomber pilot) and his wife Patricia, who used to be an actress, and who had even been in one of Mr Kyle’s plays in London some years ago (Steve and I exchanged knowing looks).

We also met Percy, the hotel’s waiter, a young lad not yet old enough to be called up but old enough to take a keen interest in the activities of the local bomber squadron. He didn’t get anything out of the bomber crew, but that didn’t stop him spreading rumours about likely raids and intended targets.

The final character is ‘Gloria’, aka Squadron Leader Swanson, who appears late in the first act to send the airmen on a dangerous mission. With her husband off to fight the Hun, Patricia doesn’t get a chance to tell him she’s leaving to be with Peter, and as events unfold, first she and then Peter himself recognise that they have to end their affair.

Just as they end things, we’re treated to the safe return of Johnny, who landed in the drink, and had quite an adventure getting back to base. With his arrival, everyone cheers up, apart from Peter and Patricia, and the play concludes with drinks all round – even Mrs Miller has a port in her hand and the beginnings of a smile on her face – and the first verse of a very lewd song.

There were marvellous performances all round. Although I found Sienna Miller and James Purefoy to be more ‘theatrical’ than the rest, that was reasonable given their characters, so I’m not complaining. The most emotional scene, where Teddy breaks down and reveals his terror to his wife, was very moving and difficult to watch. Harry Hadden-Paton’s performance was particularly good – it’s a tricky scene to get right, but he went a long way into the man’s fear and sense of his own weakness without losing my sympathy or making it comic. Of course, his wife’s reactions are an important part of making the scene work, and Sienna Miller held her own beautifully.

The other sniffle fest was after this, when Peter reads the Count’s letter to his wife, given to her in case he doesn’t return from a ‘do’. Written in French, she needs Peter’s help as translator, and there’s a moment for both of them when he reads that the Count had been looking forward to taking his wife home to his country after the war; Peter had voiced the opinion that she was a Countess only till the war was over (how wrong can you be?) and she had overheard him (that’s the trouble with public lounges). Both actors made the most of this intimate moment, even though it wasn’t really an intimacy between themselves.

For all the sniffles, there were also a lot of laughs to help things along. With very little actually appearing to happen, we still get a fascinating insight onto life at that time for a particular section of the population, such is Rattigan’s skill as a playwright. We’re really looking forward to the rest of the planned Rattigan productions this year – if they’re half as good as this, we’re in for a fantastic time.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at

Comedy Of Errors – April 2011


By: William Shakespeare

Directed by: Paul Hunter

Venue: RST

Date: 2nd April 2011

After such a superb Comedy at the Tobacco Factory, I was prepared for this to be much less enjoyable. The opening sequence to this version suggested this might happen, but I warmed up once the dialogue started and I could see the style of the piece – basically, a jolly romp through the play with lots of fun for young and slightly less young alike. By the end, I was as enthusiastic about the performance as anyone in the audience.

The set was industrial drab, yet again, with a square raised platform in the middle of the stage, a grubby sheet as a curtain hanging at the back, musical instruments ranged along the back of the stage in front of this curtain, and assorted electrical appliances secreted here and there – some under the stage, some along the back such as a fridge. The cast were mainly in an eclectic mix of scruffy outfits, and when they did glam up it was usually by throwing a glitzy number over the original togs, making for even more fun. Only the Antipholuses and Luciana looked remotely normal, she in a pretty summer dress and thick socks, they in matching suits and ties. The Dromios wore matching track suits and hats.

The performance started in stealth mode, with the actors strolling on, as they do, strumming guitars, chatting to the audience, strewing bits of straw all over the place (this was James Tucker – you could tell he didn’t have to clear it up afterwards). After a bit of this, the rest of the cast shoved off to the back of the stage, while the Ephesus Dromio (Dyfan Dwyfor), woke up, came out from under the platform and started to play some catchy rhythm on a toast rack. Mariah Gale snuck up behind him, grabbed the toast rack and kept the rhythm going, while the rest of the cast joined in on anything they could lay their hands on. Soon we were all clapping along with the beat. It was an energetic start to the performance, but I did start to wonder just when we going to get to the actual play.

The Duke arrived, resplendent in a fancy jacket and red tracksuit bottoms, and Egeon was taken out of the fridge to hear his doom. It was at this point that I started to get involved. Clearly, they were going for humour all round – no moving story of Egeon’s sad life here. Instead, they demonstrated in mime on the platform the story Egeon was telling the Duke, and this is where the performance really got going.

As he described how he left his wife in Syracuse and the birth of the twins, etc., these characters appeared on the platform, and acted out the story with some brilliant comic business. The first set of twins was born – Richard Katz (A/S) and James Tucker (A/E) – and to make them look identical, they each had one of those false nose, glasses and moustache sets. Given the difference in looks, this was not only a great device, it let us all have a tremendous laugh at the absurdity of it all. Then the Dromios were born – Dyfan Dwyfor (D/E) and Jonjo O’Neill (D/S) – followed by the tale of the shipwreck. This was beautifully done, with the children being tied together, a ‘rock’ breaking through and holding back the one lot while the others were dragged off stage by the stormy waves. So now we knew what they all looked like, and we’d got the laughing muscles well warmed up.

Somehow, this bit blended into a musical number, with A/E at the front of the platform giving a virtuoso (mimed) performance on the spoons, to the delight of the assembled crowd. (The actual player was Dyfan Dwyfor.) When A/E finishes, to much applause, he heads off stage to our right, the crowd waving goodbye all the while. So when A/S and his Dromio arrive to our left, the crowd do a nice double take before clearing the stage.

To save on actors, there’s no other merchant to warn A/S about the situation in Ephesus, so after he sends D/S off to their lodgings at the Centaur, he takes a (free) paper that’s conveniently being distributed right next to him and gets the news about the Syracusan merchant being condemned to death from that. Then A/S has his first encounter with D/E, and the rolled up newspaper came in very handy for a few blows. This was all very energetic, and the humour came across very well.

Next we were introduced to Adriana and Luciana, at home in their sitting room, complete with telly and a lovely picture on the wall of A/E holding his spoons (i.e. James Tucker holding a frame and the aforementioned musical implements). I felt the energy dropped a bit at this stage, but it picked up again when D/E arrived. When he was recounting the story of his meeting with the man he took to be his master, A/S stood by a microphone back left, and said his lines, with D/E mouthing them on the platform.

The next scene rattled through straightforwardly, then with A/S off to dinner with his ‘wife’, A/E appears with his cronies, and they’ve clearly been enjoying themselves. This time, there’s an actual door to knock on, right in the middle of the platform, and D/S, with help, keeps them out. In the process, A/E takes off his jacket, and when he puts it back on again, it’s inside out, and stays that way for the rest of the performance.

After they leave, A/S reappears, still wearing his napkin (which stays there till the end), and we get the bit about how the people he meets in the street keep giving him things (Act IV, scene 3). It struck me as a little odd – he’s just come from dinner and hasn’t been in the street for a while – but I put that down to me knowing the play really well by now, and let it pass. Luciana comes on to lecture A/S at this point, and in the course of wooing her he produces lots of red paper hearts and throws them everywhere. One of them landed near us, and we kept it as a souvenir. Luciana evidently kept one as well – more on that story later.

With Luciana’s exit, D/S arrives at a run, and we get a much shortened description of Nell, his ‘betrothed’, with the countries expunged. A/S sends him off to find a ship, receives the chain from Angelo, and leaves quickly while the goldsmith is still on the platform with his back turned, calculating the chain’s cost. When he turns round again, there is A/E who has just sent D/E for a rope’s end. Angelo tackles A/E for the money, and after the usual misunderstanding, the other merchant who has claims on Angelo turns up, and the whole multiple arresting process gets underway. I must say, this A/E was the most relaxed about being arrested I’ve ever seen.

Before he leaves the stage, D/S arrives to tell his master he’s found a ship that’s leaving that night. Aware of the risks, he’s taken the trouble to disguise himself in a large cardboard box – I spotted it creeping on via the gangway to our right. D/S holds it up a little to say his lines, and then someone finally takes the box off to reveal him crouched there. A/E sends him to get a purse from Adriana for his bail, and then we’re back in the sitting room, where Adriana is letting rip at her husband for trying to chat up her sister. This time, the picture of A/E responds to her ranting by pulling faces at her while her back is turned – very childish and very funny – and then D/S rushes on to get the money, and they all head off.

A/S reappears, and is met by his own Dromio this time, with the money. The courtesan (Mariah Gale in a tacky blond wig), spots him and wants her chain, which he refuses, and he and D/S leave. Her speech about Antipholus being mad, and telling his wife about him stealing her ring is followed by a song. A microphone is placed at the front of the platform and she does a raunchy little number, with the rest of the cast as her backing vocalists. All good fun.

Next came the scene with A/E meeting his wife, sister-in-law, D/E and the courtesan, and the confusions start to build, with various people swearing to different bits of different storylines. Now it all happened thick and fast. A/E and D/E are taken away, bound, and put into the fridge, A/S and D/S turn up and are chased into the abbey, represented by a pair of curtains at the back of the platform. When the Abbess comes out to deal with the crowd, she appears to have originated from one of the rougher parts of London, judging by her snarled ‘shut it’ and the like. She also missed out on a performing career to take the veil, judging by her readiness to launch into a song and dance routine at the first opportunity.

Anyway, the Duke and Egeon also turn up, the various stories are put forward, with Luciana being the one who brings the news of A/E and D/E’s escape, and finally the Syracusan branch of the family are revealed. The two Antipholuses react brilliantly to each other, taking off their glasses in slow motion and moving them towards each other (they’re both on the platform only a few feet apart).

With the mystery mostly explained, A/S turns to Luciana and makes his play for her affections, at which point she takes out the red paper heart that she’d kept and holds it open over her heart. Ahhh. This is the point where the abbess prolongs her speech long after everyone else has gone inside the abbey. The final exchanges between the pairs of brothers were fine, and then they rounded the whole thing off with more music before their much deserved applause.

All the performances were absolutely splendid, and the comic business was tremendously inventive. It’s a good job Steve and I are flexible in our approach to Shakespeare performances; it means we can get the most out of such diverse versions of the same play. I was also aware of how well this group of actors worked together, a benefit of the ensemble philosophy. Long may it continue.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at

The Rape Of Lucrece – April 2011


By: William Shakespeare

Directed by: Elizabeth Freestone

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: 1st April 2011

This was a mesmerising performance by Camille O’Sullivan, accompanied by Feargal Murray. We didn’t see her cabaret act during the ramp up events last year, but I’m very glad we caught this wonderful version of The Rape Of Lucrece tonight. There was a rehearsed reading of the poem during the Complete Works Festival in 2006, but this was far, far better in my view.

The set was very simple. The piano was under the stage balcony on the left, and there were several large stacks of paper on the stage, one forward of the piano and another on the front corner to our right. A pair of white ladies’ shoes was placed towards the other front corner. As she entered, Camille was carrying a pair of men’s boots, and as she began to weave her spell, telling us of the writing of the poem, she moved around the stage, placing the boots back right, forming a diagonal with the other pair. These items of footwear represented the two main characters in this piece, Tarquin and Lucrece, and were spot lit at various times to highlight the story. Camille herself was dressed in a thigh-length black coat, under which she wore a long white top over black leggings. Her feet were bare, and her hair was scooped up quite tightly at the back.

After describing the context of the poem’s creation, she then started into the story of the poem. Her delivery was so good, that I’m not sure at what point she started using the poem itself, but soon she was well into it, and her gestures and intonation got across many aspects of the lines that I wasn’t able to catch directly, through missing the odd word or just because of the complexity of the language. I would have sworn I saw the candle, and the doors, and the knife with my own eyes – there were no such props, just her skill and the wonderful language.

The story was the same as with the rehearsed reading, of course. The Roman nobles, away at war, boast of their wives, and one, Lucrece’s husband, outdoes the others for bragging. Fortunately for him, when the men all sneak back to Rome, his wife is the only one they find being virtuous – the others are all having fun, which is not what Roman wives are meant to do when their husband’s backs are turned. Tarquin, inflamed with passion for Lucrece’s beauty, returns later to visit her, and despite the feeble flickering of his conscience, rapes her. Distraught, she has a good long rant and rave, then summons her husband back home so he can witness her suicide and revenge the wrong which Tarquin has inflicted on her honour, which he does.

It’s a difficult story, not least because of the rape, but here it was staged with great sensitivity, not overdoing the suffering and brutality, but showing it in a way that reflected the poetry of the language, allowing our imaginations to skip over the sordid details to experience the emotional and mental pain caused by such an act. From time to time, when the characters themselves were speaking, she moved into song, using the poem’s lines, of course, but adding a tune and a delivery which emphasised the meaning, sometimes harsh, sometimes pure and sweet. With her bare feet often drumming out a rhythm, these aspects combined to produce the magical effect which only theatre can provide.

There were several vivid moments of staging that impressed me. Firstly, when Tarquin was sneaking towards Lucrece’s bedroom, she used a closing hand gesture in the direction of each of three lights, and the control room obligingly turned them off, all at a menacingly gentle pace. Once in Lucrece’s room, she prowled around the bed, describing Tarquin’s growing lust, or rage, as the poem has it. Then, as the poem continued, she removed the black coat, and used it to demonstrate Tarquin smothering Lucrece’s cries as he began to rape her. As she was doing this, she gradually turned over to become Lucrece, unpinning her hair, and with several moaning cries she indicated Lucrece’s agony at her violation. It was a very moving scene, not difficult to watch or embarrassing, but painful all the same.

With the rape over, the poem focuses on Lucrece’s feelings and her thoughts, especially her increasing desire to kill herself to redeem her honour. In the Complete Works version, I found myself annoyed that she regarded her blood as tainted and dishonoured by Tarquin’s actions. Tonight, it made more sense as part of her emotional reaction to being raped. Her emotional distress was well portrayed in song, with the rage and grief both coming across strongly. She also threw some of the paper stack by the piano across the floor, kicking at it in her frustration.

Finally, as Lucrece stabbed herself, and she was describing the blood flowing out in two rivers to surround the body, red petals floated down to cover the centre of the stage – a beautiful image for a sad event.

Her father’s lament was done as a song, and then her husband took the knife with which she stabbed herself, swearing to avenge her rape and death. Tarquin was banished, and Lucrece’s reputation restored to honour. Not a happy ending, but a fitting completion to this amazing emotional journey we’d been taken on.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at