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A Winning Hazard review at Finborough Theatre, London – ‘oodles of energy’

Jasmine Blackborow, Evelyn Lockley, Robert Benfield and Josephine Starte. Photo: Scott RylanderJasmine Blackborow, Evelyn Lockley, Robert Benfield and Josephine Starte. Photo: Scott Rylander Jasmine Blackborow, Evelyn Lockley, Robert Benfield and Josephine Starte. Photo: Scott Rylander
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The Victorians aren’t usually renowned for brevity. These three comediettas (A Winning Hazard, Allow Me to Apologise and Orange Blossoms) by J.P. Wooler would have been performed as apertifs before the main event, which must have ultimately made for quite a long evening.

Revived for the first time in 150 years, Philip James Rouse’s rumbustious staging, handsomely costumed by Martelle Hunt, makes a clear case for how these pieces would have put Victorian audiences in a good mood for the rest of their evening, even if three in a row can sometimes feel a little like too much of a good thing.

It would be futile to try to summarise the three pieces in any detail except to comment that all are about the age-old preoccupation of marriage – and the reluctance to enter into it – featuring an array of crusty uncles, blasé bachelors and canny maidens, culminating in lots of giggling and squealing and an array of (hopefully) happily ever afters.

The second piece boasts the heartiest laughs with a wonderful comic mad scene, as well as the ever-so-slightly risque frisson of a girl pretending to be a boy in order to woo another girl.

There are a number of stumbled lines – all of which are well recovered from – reflecting either a surfeit of manic energy, or lack of rehearsal time. The highly likeable troupe of six are anchored by Max Marcq and Edward Mitchell as a pair of leading men and Jasmine Blackborow gets to show the most versatility among the women with her comical characters.

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Verdict
Oodles of energy in a trio of Victorian (anti)courtship comedies
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