BROS Theatre Company, Hampton Hill Theatre
17-22nd October 2016
Review by Mary Stoakes
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
13 June 2016
Paul Miller’s intriguing revival of Bernard Shaw’s comedy ‘The Philanderer’, held the audience at the Orange Tree Theatre captive throughout. Placed in a modern setting, Miller’s restoration of ‘The Philanderer’ was able to throw off the constraints of Victorian society, instead transferring these ideas to the present day and confronting key issues such as disloyalty, lack of self-worth, selfishness and sexism.
The play opens with a passionate kiss between the philanderer, Leonard Charteris (Rupert Young), and Grace (Helen Bradbury), the sophisticated woman whom Charteris wants to marry. However, it soon becomes evident that Charteris is involved with more than one woman, as Julia Craven (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) continually asserts through her hysterical and desperate attempts to win back Charteris’ love. Indeed, Myer-Bennett portrays the character of Julia perfectly, capturing her pathetic wallowing and wining pleas with seamless clarity. Even her clothing is a declaration of her jealous nature, as she is introduced to the audience in a deep green dress, storming around the stage like a vision of female envy.
Rupert Young manages to oscillate his performance of Charteris from a veneer of impeccable charm to calculating manipulator throughout the play, leaving the audience laughing at his humorous antics. His views come into direct conflict with those of the two fathers (Michael Lumsden and Mark Tandy), emphasising the differing viewpoints between older and younger generations. Indeed, Charteris represents the more liberal ideas which become pitted against the close-minded beliefs of stifling convention, the likes of which is proven ridiculous by Lumsden’s bumbling fluctuation of opinion.
Confusions in affection are completed by the unrequited love Dr Paramore (Christopher Staines) holds for Julia. His nervous disposition and awkward advances leave the audience cringing in their seats. The only moments in which Staines drags his character out his shell are when he has experienced extreme disappointments. For example, upon learning that his work has been discredited he breaks down in wild distress, seeming to value his failed research more than his patient’s life which has been saved as a result. Another moment of plight arises when the doctor declares he wishes to divorce Julia, an ironic conclusion considering his previous lovelorn state. Here Staines became very clinical and concise, a stark contrast to his previous self-conscious demeanour.
All the characters, although strikingly different, managed to mould themselves together to form elaborate and dynamic relationships. The play was intriguing to all audience members, entertaining everyone with comedic situations disguising deeper issues beneath.
Lauren Falconer (aged 16)
Winner, Arts Richmond 2016 Young Writers Award