17 Oct

BY Karoline Leach
At the Tabard
Seeing this old fashioned type thriller – was almost like holiday. So relaxing seeing a play without nudity, without politics (gender or otherwise) but one man and one woman exploring their own individual lives. Both becoming aware of the dangers of each other and yet not admitting it. We are at the beginning of the twentieth century, Edwardian times. Fred Perry plays a con man. A true charmer who begins the play by speaking to the audience. He tells us that he wears handmade suits, he adopts a PR accent and a gentlemanly demeanour. But he is a predator. He finds a suitable mark – a plain girl with a bit of money. He makes love to her, proposes to her, goes through a form of marriage, spends one night making expert love to her and then skedaddles with all her money. He tells us all this without shame, with a kind of pride. He has given the girls a wonderful experience that they will never have again. He was so convincing that on the night I was there a member of the audience was moved to cry out in the middle of his speech.
Cut to the other side of the stage and there is Adelaide. Played by Natasha J Barnes, looking unusually dumpy but almost unbearably sweet as a milliner who works in the back of a millinery shop. She too talks to the audience. Tells us about her family, her aunt who left her the beautiful brooch she is wearing, which she believes is worth a fortune – and the money she is saving to do ‘something wonderful’ she doesn’t yet know what it will be. She has dreams of travelling to romantic places in Europe
The two get to know each other of course – seemingly by accident but carefully planned by George – he goes into action almost straight away saying he loves her and knows she wouldn’t want to marry him. He is not good enough for her. Hey hye, nobody can resist a line like his – more shouts from the audience. These characters are full of surprises for each other and for the audience. So many twists and flashes of danger- like something that could have been written half a century ago. As an audience I was aware that my mind was being played with, but it was so entertaining that I didn’t mind.
The setting is just right for the seedy seaside boarding house where most of the action takes place. Max Dorey has recreated the scenes perfectly and in tune with the times – a gas lantern, an iron bedstead and incorporating a wonderful fireplace with a wooden surround which must have been painted thirty years before and colourful tiles some of which are broken
Both the actors are terrific. Fred Perry as the evil seducer and Natasha J Barnes as he plain little milliner with a will of iron.
Excellently directed by Phoebe Barran.

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