Review – Trelawny of the Wells, Donmar

Monday 8 April 2013

Trelawny_Of_The_Wells-1-200-200-100-cropBit late in the day with this one and frankly we weren’t going to bother writing it up as it closes on Saturday. But we’ll forget that we saw it otherwise. That’s not to say it’s forgettable. It’s just us.

Andrew was a Trelawny of the Wells virgin. Phil saw the starry Helena Bonham Carter version at the then Comedy Theatre 20-odd years ago; rather unfortunately the National also staged it around the same time. Oops. Phil remembered that it featured Michael Hordern, Jason Connery and Margaret Courtenay but had completely forgotten that cosmonaut-in-waiting Sarah Brightman also starred. How could he forget that? It seemed necessary to record our visit, if only for ourselves. You should feel no obligation to read any further.

The biggest surprise for us was, not that we enjoyed it, but that quite a few of the critics were a bit snippily ‘meh’ about film director Joe Wright‘s first stage production, a version of Arthur Wing Pinero‘s (“with some most respectful additions and ornamentation by Patric Marber“) love letter to the theatre satire on the behaviour of actors.

Rose Trelawny (Amy Morgan) is ‘retiring’ from a successful stage career at the Barridge Wells to marry Arthur Gower (Joshua Silver) who comes from a highly respectable aristocratic background. Will an unrestrained actress fit in to this deeply conservative family or find them unbearably stuffy and dull? No prizes for guessing which provides the more comedic option. Chaotic hilarity ensues.

Some have grumbled that the acting’s occasionally writ too large, but since they’re mainly playing hammy actors we had no beef with that. Daniel Mays goes so over the top with his flamboyant Ferdinand Gadd he must lose his stomach coming down the other side; but we do not complain.

There’s great comic opportunities (and money-saving) from some doubling up of the roles: Ron Cook is terrific as both a Charley’s Aunt-styled Mrs Mossop and Arthur’s restrained grandfather Sir William with Maggie Steed** as both his sister, Miss Trafalgar Gower and one Mrs Telfer delivers the biggest laugh of the night. In response to her husband’s distress at being given a role which is clearly and insultingly based upon himself she delivers a beautifully judged,”Do you think you could get near it?” which alone is worth stumping up for a ticket*. That and Cook’s delivery of “obleeged”. We cackled.

It’s splendidly cast throughout from Aimeé-Ffion Edwards‘ Avonia Bunn to a riot of roles from Jamie Beamish – especially his booming last act Irish stage manager. Susanna Fielding is hilarious as the extremely actressy Imogen Parrott and newcomer Silver makes a huge impression in what could have been an insipid role as Rose’s love interest. The Whingers don’t want to blight what looks like a promising career by saying we’ll be watching him closely, but we will. Heck, not only did we like everyone on stage but we’d love to think the actors behave like this off stage too.

Hildegard Bechtler’s sets scroll up and down wittily and it’s fun trying to spot Marber’s “ornamentation”.

Safe to say we liked it then.


*We used the Donmar’s Front Row scheme to get our £10 seats. Artistic director Josie O’Rourke’s vision is to encourage younger people into the theatre with these cheap tickets. We doubt we were quite what she was after.

** We really haven’t been following Maggie Steed closely enough and can’t think why. Enjoy her glorious turn here as producer Marion Clune in The Making of Acorn Antiques:




25 Responses to “Review – Trelawny of the Wells, Donmar”

  1. webcowgirl Says:

    Wow … I’m glad you enjoyed it. I found it boring. Maybe I didn’t have enough to drink beforehand?

  2. Elena Says:

    Good and fair testimony and so late in the run – well worth recording for those of us who raise our glass to all concerned. By the way have recently noted a fair old number of boozers seated next to me at the theatre – perhaps a spot of good old bear-bating in place of the actors might impress them – might even save a few livers

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