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Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Mary Broome at The Orange Tree Theatre
‘Mary Broome', written by Allan Monkhouse in the early part of the 20th Century, is a study of relationships: between servant and wealthy employer and secondly between parents and their children. Monkhouse enjoys muddling these divisions up when the younger son in the prosperous Timbrall family is found to have landed the family’s housemaid, Mary Broome, in a spot of trouble.
I faintly remember my last visit to the Orange Tree Theatre, I can’t have been older than twelve and was there on a school trip; the theatre seemed much bigger back then. It is actually a boutique venue sitting in the centre of lovely Richmond, just two minutes walk from the train station. Before seeing the play we stopped into Carluccio’s next door to scoff a quick bowl of pasta, sustenance for the evening’s entertainment.
We all squeezed onto the snug press benches: to say it was cosy would be an understatement. Set designer Sam Dowson has created an atmospheric sitting room, and used very effectively the small space he has to work with. Strangely, a piece of furniture is placed in the middle of each side of the square stage restricting one's view, this may be intentional in order to make the audience feel they are peeking into the family drama.
Katie McGuinness is reserved and affecting as the meek maid Mary Broome; she puts on a perfect Pennine accent which makes her stand out from the rest of the characters brilliantly. She never gives too much away, keeping her thoughts coiled in and presenting a plain, rather dumb front. Her shy and hesistant portrayal is sometimes painful to watch.
Jack Farthing made me laugh as overtly camp and frivolous Leonard Timbrell, who is forced to marry Mary by his stern father after getting her pregnant. He is witty and sharp and makes fabulous use of Monkhouse’s fast paced script. Michael Lumsden commands the stage with his bellowing rendition of Mr Edward Timbrell ordering everyone about in a nasty condescending tone. In fact the whole cast is strong and works well as a team, there are no dud performances.
It is a convincing production for the Orange Tree Theatre, though after seeing similar plays such as ‘When we are Married’ and ‘An Ideal Husband’, I’m afraid I didn’t feel as excited watching this smaller scale farce.