American Players Theatre: "The Admirable Crichton"
On Sunday, September 23rd, we went back to Spring Green to catch a performance of "The Admirable Crichton," by J.M. Barrie. Although a prolific author and playwrite, Barrie is by far best known as the creator of "Peter Pan," and most of his works have faded into obscurity. I looked up some of his other works prior to going to this play, and found plays such as "The Old Lady Shows Her Medals," heavily based in post-WW I sentimentality, to be quite dated.
"The Admirable Chrichton" is set more in a Gilbert and Sullivan-like topsy-turvy world, whose time, due to the interest in "Downton Abbey", seems to have come round again.
Crichton (pronounced "Cryton", like "Jurassic Park" author Michael,) is butler to Lord Loam. In his sphere, he is stone-faced, absolutely correct, and a 100% believer in the "natural order" of things, in which, in England, he is proud to be a servant, and to have other servants under him. All this, however, is upset when Crichton, Load Loam, the Lord's three daughters, two male friends, and one maidservant, are shipwrecked on an uninhabited South Seas island, and the social structures supportint the order in which Crichton was wont to function are replaced by a very different, but no less "natural" order.
James Ridge plays the butler as a ramrod-straight elegant figure which makes him seem the natural master of any situation, much more so than either the typicaly out of his depth Lord Loam (Mark Goetzinger) or "The Honorable Ernest Wooley," (Steve Haggard) who is a "Bertie Wooster" ancestor, whose imagination far exceeds his competence.
All of the cast do a fine job of ringing the changes on their characters in the four scenes: The London of self-satisfaction and surety; the shipwreck, with its upset and shadows of things to come; the island home, with the settled new 'natural' order; and the return to England, wherein it is found that the old order is not as comfortable as once it was.
The play is quite witty, and makes fond fun of the British class system, which becomes inverted on "the island". In fact much is made of the argument that old rules do not apply on "an island," slyly gliding over the fact that Britain itself, as a quote from Shakepeare reminds, is an island.
Having read the script beforehand, I was genuinely uncertain that the Players could make this show work in this day and age; I am pleased to report that they did. This is in large part due to the fine actors and directors that make up the Players, but also to the troupe's tradition of attntion to detail and internalisation of the narrative to the point that all the action, however farcical, seems quite natural.
We enjoyed the performance very much, and it drew a large and enthusiastic crowd, particularly for a rather chilly Sunday evening.This entry was originally posted at http://sinister-sigils.dreamwidth.org/222105.html. Please comment there using OpenID.