The Finborough opens its poetryatthefinborough series with this revival of Christopher Fry’s romantic comedy set in verse.
As a small town prepares for a wedding, world-weary Thomas Mendip arrives, confessing to murder and demanding to be hanged. The mayor and his cronies refuse his request, preferring instead to prosecute accused witch Jennet. So begins an unlikely romance between a man who wants to die and a woman who wants to live.
The impressive cast does justice to Fry’s clever phrasing, ensuring the piece retains a nice rhythm throughout, and there are many delightfully funny moments.
Gay Soper shines as Margaret Devize, while Dan Starkey and Morgan Brind are wonderfully repulsive as her obnoxious sons. Raymond Boot gives a superb comic performance as the Chaplain, finding comfort in his violin and providing an excellent foil to Michael Kirk’s sneering, devious Tappercoom. Patrick Myles is an appealing Richard and Andrew Macbean a suitably blustering Mayor Tyson.
Despite good performances and some well-judged interaction with the audience, this production suffers from a lack of chemistry between Grant Gillespie’s Mendip and Gemma Larke’s Jennet. There is no sense of romantic tension between them – Mendip’s plea “hang me before I love that woman” appears to come from nowhere – and the notion that Jennet has wooed him out of his death-bent depression is wholly unconvincing.
Nevertheless, pacy direction from Walter Sutcliffe ensures the audience remains focused, and the production shows that Fry’s 50-year-old lyrical drama stands the test of time.
Finborough, London, April 17-May 12
- Christopher Fry
- Walter Sutcliffe
- Double Think Theatre/Mark Puddle/Finborough
- Cast includes
- Grant Gillespie, Gemma Larke, Andrew Macbean, Gay Soper, Raymond Boot
- Running time