Ours @ Finborough Theatre, London

cast list
Emily Dobbs
Jon Edgely-Bond
Rachel Fishwick
Nicholas Gadd
Christopher Gilling
Robert Irons
Peter Machen
Emilie Patry

directed by
Phoebe Barron
The Finborough Theatres excellent Rediscoveries season continues with a revival of TW Robertsons Crimean War-set play, performed here for the first time since 1909.

Ours opens in the park of a Home Counties estate, where Sir Alexander Shendryn and his jealous wife care for their wealthy charge Blanche.

Elevating the play above a thousand parlour-room dramas is the ensemble of men and women around them: Mary, companion to Lady Shendryn, poor but gloriously spirited; Sergeant Jones and his innumerable children; and romantic young soldier Angus and his love-rival Prince Perovsky. Most endearing of all is Hugh Chalcot, so disgusted by his own brewing fortune, and so disappointed in love, that he spends the majority of the play heroically trousered.

At first glance, it seems a conventional affair – Blanche must choose between the Russian prince and the impoverished Angus, whilst Mary, with her fantastic line in embittered wit, is too poor to be much desired as a wife. But Robertson, whose work Bernard Shaw considered epoch making, proves such a master of dialogue and dramatic action that the play manages to be both an early endeavour to examine issues of class and womanhood, and a genuinely engaging romantic drama.

Austerely staged on a set that slips between Mayfair parlour and chilly Crimean hut, the play follows the mens enlistment into Sir Alexanders regiment, and the womens journey out to meet them as war tourists. The sound of the regiment on parade at home, and later the sound of cannon-fire over the hill, lends poignancy to every scene, and proper weight to the prospect of war.

Its impossible to overstate the immense pleasure of this play. It satisfies on every level, with set-pieces mixing wit sharp as Perovskys sword with a profoundly sympathetic understanding of human relationships. When little Mary in her plain dress first sets eyes on the miserably roistering Chalcot, their mutual dislike sends sparks across the stage, and any perceptive member of the audience will start rubbing their hands in anticipation of a pair falling in love like a sack of hammers.

The cast is uniformly competent, and in places beyond reproach. Robert Irons as Hugh Chalcot and Emilie Patry as Mary Netley inhabited their roles so entirely I was half-convinced Id see them running off to the nearest swirl-carpeted hostel after curtain-up. Christopher Gilling as Sir Alexander Shendryn, and Rachel Fishwick as Lady Shendryn, didnt let the flashes of comedy in their roles impair the genuinely moving examination of their mistrustful marriage.

Its by no means a perfect production, and Robertsons faultless dialogue deserves transfer to a more moneyed venue, but its suffused with a profoundly wise, compassionate, optimistic spirit thats as infectious as the measles. Anyone with a mite of sense will get to the Finborough while they can, and catch a dose.

No related posts found...