What would you do for love? Would you leave your husband or wife, lover, partner? Abandon your home and children? Relinquish your security, social standing, money and stability?
The brittle Lady Kitty, played so defiantly by the wonderful Jane Asher, READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH HER HERE has done just that with Lord Porteous (Nicholas Le Provost) in Somerset Maugham’s The Circle, making a dramatic reappearance 30 years later at her former marital home, just in time for lunch.
Aiming to reunite with her son the MP Arnold Champion-Cheney (Pete Ashmore), who now resides there with his wife Elizabeth (Olivia Vinall), her former husband Clive (played by Clive Francis) also joins in, rubbing his hands in glee as he sets the cat amongst the pigeons, enjoying the bickering, pushing all the right buttons, revelling in his former spouse’s fall from grace.
Will love or duty prevail? What a tasty moral dilemma for the audience to chew over
Rightly so perhaps, but Lady Kitty of course takes it all in her stride, her superficial and shallow demeanour soon revealing greater depths; her facade in place to hide the regrets, realities and compromise needed to survive as an exile in Florence, unable to get by on her reputation as a society beauty in her later years.
The curse of the unmarried, or as she puts it so ably herself: “The tragedy of love is indifference.”
And while the plot whips along with some wonderful one-liners, the point soon becomes clear – Elizabeth is in love with maverick house guest Teddie Lunton (Daniel Burke) and also planning to leave her husband, despite all the ramifications.
will history repeat itself?
Would history repeat itself? What is Lady Kitty’s advice, having done exactly the same thing herself? Can the family change Elizabeth’s mind? Will love or duty prevail? What a tasty moral dilemma for the audience to chew over.
Judging by the packed Oxford Playhouse, The Circle is hitting all the right spots, and yet, albeit a period piece, there were still moments that rankled. Clive’s penchant for young girls was fairly grim, as was Teddie Lunton’s insouciant position as a planter in Malaya.
A fun, fast-paced, reflective, if predictable, piece of theatre. Or as Teddie wold have put it ‘simply ripping’
Of course post WW1 things were very different. Marriage meant respectability, living in sin meant being shunned, disdained, disregarded, outed, excluded.
And while the momentum however took a while to build, everyone in the audience understood the dilemma, enjoying the glamour and shine of the 1920s, while being desperately relieved that things had moved on.
Would she or wouldn’t she break out of her gilded cage and loveless marriage?
Some characters, especially Lord Porteous, were hard to hear, but as the characters threw themselves into preventing Elizabeth from leaving, The Circle reached a satisfying climax. Would she or wouldn’t she break out of her gilded cage and loveless marriage?
A fun, reflective, if contained, piece of theatre. Or as Teddie would have put it ‘simply ripping’. But hurry because tickets are scarce.
The Circle runs at Oxford Playhouse until Saturday. Tickets at https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/events/the-circle