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The Philanderer, by George Bernard Shaw

Monday, 9 August, 2010

Caught between two women

The Greenwich Playhouse 20th July – 15th August 19:30 (21:40 2 Acts, 15 min interval)  Sundays at 4pm.

Charteris (Michael Longhi) a self-confessed philanderer, is caught between two women.  The women in question are his new flame, Grace (Sarine Sofair), and Julia (Kelli White), the old flame who is determined to secure him in marriage by any means necessary.  By the end of the first scene, one woman has retreated to her bedroom, the other is raising hell in the living room and the fathers of both (Craven – Marcus Taylor and Cuthbertson – Robert Rowe), long lost friends, are advancing towards the front door.  After a delicate aversion of social disaster, the group plans a trip to the Ibsen club where ‘modern’ values, namely sexual equality, are championed and displayed to varying degrees of success by its members.  Here Paramore (Darren Munn) feverishly reads the medical journals and obsesses over his scientific discovery, Craven’s ‘terminal’ disease, and Julia’s sister Sylvia (Kirsty Lee-Turner) sets about being the least ‘womanly’ woman she possibly can.  Thus the stage is set for a comedy built on romantic ruses and a generous helping of Bernard Shaw’s tongue-in-cheek turn of last century social commentary.

Michael Longhi is The Philanderer

Shaw’s script is a gift and the cast presents it with enthusiasm and energy. Structural features, such as a particularly pacy opening 15 minutes and a second act that is considerably shorter than the first, really work in the play’s favour.  The director (Bart Williams) has taken these cues and pushed the play through at a satisfying speed.  Even the scene changes are executed with energy and interest, as led by Adam Glass who takes on the stage management as well as the small acting role of Paige.

The one major difficulty of this play is vocal.  Too many of the characters make their points by shouting and screaming.  In the case of Julia at least, a high level of hysteria is definitely justified in the text, but in such a small theatre the decibel levels reached so often in the play did become hard on the ears.

On a more positive note, the simple, period, design worked well. The accessories to the characters costumes (costume design by Lisa Gaunt) were particularly enjoyable.  Charteris’ scarf, Sylvia’s spats and Grace’s hat gave an appreciable visual finishing touch to the production.

Michael Longhi’s Charteris is energetic, flamboyant and fun, and he delivers a large amount of text with very clear story telling. Darren Munn’s Paramore is delightfully earnest, romantically inept, and likeable above all.  Kelli White’s Julia is an unerringly difficult woman who pulls off a very impressive faint. Marcus Taylor and Robert Rowe are a likeable duo as Craven and Cuthbertson and are a good counterpoint to many of the more frenetic characters, while Adam Glass’s behaviour as Paige is fittingly inappropriate.  Particularly enjoyable characterizations are Sarine Sofair’s Grace, executed with admirable poise and believability and Kirsty Lee-Turner’s Sylvia, who has lots of get up and go and great comic timing.   

There are several enjoyable features in this production, most notably the cast’s energy and George Bernard Shaw’s wit.

Cast credits (alpha order):  Adam Glass – Paige, Michael Longhi – Charteris, Darren Munn – Paramore, Marcus Taylor – Craven, Kirsty Lee Turner – Sylvia, Robert Rowe – Cuthbertson, Kelli White – Julia.

Company credits:  Director – Bart Williams, Costume Design – Lisa Gaunt, Sell a Door core team – Phillip Rowntree, David Hutchinson, Ally Thornton, Robert Gilbert, Scott Weston, Carl Vorwerk and Felicity Jackson.

Greenwhich Playhouse credits:  Artistic Director – Alice De Sousa,  Co-director Jamieson, Box Office – Elizabeth Buckeridge.

(c) Jennifer Skapeti 2010

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