After October

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
 (© Mitzi de Margary)
1/5
© Mitzi de MargaryAdam Buchanan
 (© Mitzi de Margary)
2/5
© Mitzi de MargaryAdam Buchanan
 (© Mitzi de Margary)
3/5
© Mitzi de MargaryAdam Buchanan and Sasha Waddell
 (© Mitzi de Margary)
4/5
© Mitzi de MargaryJasmine Blackborow and Adam Buchanan
 (© Mitzi de Margary)
5/5
© Mitzi de MargaryJasmine Blackborow and Allegra Marland and Jonathan Oliver and Peta Cornish

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

This long-long bohemian satire is worth a watch

Eighty years after it first ran, Rodney Ackland’s play-about-a-play has been given its first revival at the Finborough. It follows the tribulations of Clive Monkhams (Adam Buchanan), a writer struggling to finish a play that will propel him to fame and, more pressingly, end the financial misfortunes of his family. He isn’t exactly a tortured artist – more someone painfully aware of his own mediocrity. As he confesses: ‘The entire fabric of this house is dependent on everyone in it believing in my genius.’ Into the mix comes an ensemble of eccentric characters, including his widowed mother, lost in memories of her days on-stage; his self-entitled sisters – one a dancer, one an aspiring artist – and their beaus; and his dilettantish poet friend, who comes in through the window and steals books and food.

Eight decades have sanded the edges off this satire about the delusions of a bohemian family. This is now a far gentler affair, and one padded with nostalgia for the ’30s: a time when you could live in Hampstead even if you were skint, when numerology was the latest fad, and when you’d wait up all night to read the reviews in the morning papers. The chintzy set, strewn with crumpled manuscripts and Penguin Classics, adds to the period fuzziness.

But a strong cast ensure that Ackland’s play hasn’t lost its heft; and the second act is a bittersweet meditation on how reality gets in the way of artistic integrity and big dreams. (Those who know of Ackland’s repeated critical drubbing throughout his life will recognise a lot of art imitating life here.) Oscar Toeman ably directs his third production at the Finborough, managing a sizeable cast in a small space. Warm and affectionate, this does great justice to an under-sung figure of British theatre.

By: Matt Breen

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