The Browning Version – September 2011

7/10

By: Terence Rattigan

Directed by: Angus Jackson

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Tuesday 6th September 2011

I like this little play very much. It’s well constructed, and while it might not be completely idiot-proof, it can certainly rise above mediocre performances. Not that this was a problem tonight. There were a few rough edges, but given that this is very early in the run, I’m sure they’ll be up to speed very soon.

The set used the same two wooden arches as the first play, but added in the walls of Crocker-Harris’s study, and some French windows out to the garden centre back. A screen shielded the main entrance to the right, and there was a small table beside the French windows on the left. Another small table stood front left, with a large dining table centre right and a sofa centre left. There were several rugs on the floor, and the sense of a 50s style study/living room was very clear.

I liked Nicholas Farrell’s portrayal of Crocker-Harris a lot. He was very stiff and formal most of the time, but not unpleasant, and the way he crumpled when he was given the gift was very moving. I’m intrigued by the way such formality of speech can actually be used to convey the emotions underneath – it was beautifully done tonight.

Andrew Woodall was fine as the headmaster, and Mark Umbers was good as Frank Hunter, the cuckolder who turns into a friend. Liam Morton was very good as Taplow, and I certainly got the impression that the gift was a kind gesture on his part, which is what it’s meant to be. The only fly in the ointment for me was Anna Chancellor’s performance as Millie Crocker-Harris. I didn’t get the full sense of her nastiness here; it’s as if she’s afraid to make the part too unpleasant, which undercuts everyone else’s good work. Perhaps I just need time to adjust to her way of doing it, and as we’re seeing it again next month I may find it’s improved. We still enjoyed ourselves tonight anyway, so we’re looking forward to the next time.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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