Cleverly entertaining but carrying a strong social bite, Nichola McAuliffe’s Revenants has a hint of the drawing room drama about it. In 1943 the Queen Mother – Queen Mary – is taking tea in a birch grove with actor Ernest Thesiger, attended by her chauffeur, Walcott.
They are commemorating the death of the Russian royal family, for which she feels a responsibility, when a black GI bursts into the glade, unaware of whom he has disturbed.
It’s a clever set-up, ripe for exploring the nature of regret and responsibility, but providing a strong reminder of the nature of class, race and gender politics from which contemporary attitudes have grown.
The historical figures are allowed to develop a little, but are mostly there to represent the attitudes of a generation. McAuliffe is particularly glacial as Queen Mary, given a touch of humanity by the script with the occasional knowing line which, under the benefit of hindsight, provides a wry laugh.
Kevin Moore has fun with needlepoint-loving Thesiger’s bon mots, and Peter Straker’s strong performance as Walcott reminds the audience exactly where the class system is founded. But it is Tok Stephen as GI Waverley Monk who allows the piece to expand its horizons and focus on much more contemporary concerns.