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Cornelius

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The Finborough once again demonstrates its keen eye for a timely revival with this gem by JB Priestley. Unseen in London for 70 years, its story of a small import office facing bankruptcy seems painfully prescient.

The first half begins as an unhurried, witty sketch of the amusing oddities of office life; it's easy to slip into amiable enjoyment watching the irrepressible Cornelius (a superb Alan Cox) – partner at Briggs and Murrison – dodge creditors while contending with his employees' idiosyncrasies.

But Priestley's writing is humane, not soft-soaped, drawing us into this world before disassembling it. As desperate salesmen intrude on Cornelius's office and his long-absent partner Mr Murrison reappears in the grip of a breakdown, the play unflinchingly depicts the devastatingly personal effect of a floundering, newly global economy.

The characters are as beautifully realised as the fusty, faded and subtly lit set. Col Farrell is lovably eccentric as accountant Biddle; Annabel Topham's purse-lipped Miss Porrin stalks between comedy and tragedy. As straight-talking cleaner Mrs Roberts and posh landlord's niece Mrs Reade, Beverley Klein rules the stage.

Sam Yates's sensitive, well-judged production sees 'Cornelius' wearing its age lightly. Its greatest strength is that it isn't about heroes or soapboxes.

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