Susan Stanley Carroll reviews The Lady With The Dog
“The Lady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov is considered to be one of the best short stories of its era. Recently it inspired Mark Geisser not only to adapt it as a play but also to direct it - last week it was in Kennington and now it is at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick.
The plot concerns the loveless marriages of two couples. The male protagonist is Damian Granville (Richard Lynson) a serial seducer. He has regular solo holidays escaping from his organised, erudite wife.
His victim this year is a delectable, elegant but naive married woman, Anne Dennis (Beth Burrows), also holidaying apart from her tedious, hypochondriac husband, Carl.
Anne’s glowing violet-blue ‘Elizabeth Taylor’ eyes deeply attract Damian. A tad too deeply. Much to his surprise he falls passionately in love with her. (Whatever that means? As it causes Him and Her a lot of painful and petulant emotional soul-searching and agony). Their developing affair is grounded by the comments of the couples’ gritty spouses (Elaine and Carl) who are left, of course, ‘home and alone’.
Mark Geisser deftly weaves Laura and Duncan into his engrossing script. Their witty and sardonic comments, on their partners’ affair, are delivered with aplomb from the various imagined settings, including their two matrimonial homes. They also become figments of Damian and Anne’s imaginations and visibly confront the guilty couple. Initially a tad confusing but an ingenious theatrical device used convincingly by Mark Geisser.
The dynamic and delightful cast includes Beth Burrows, Richard Lynson, Duncan Macinnes, and Laura Glover.
Beth Burrows is a beguiling actor: always riveting to watch, even the pallor of her skin reflects her deep emotional turmoil. Her comic timing, crisp diction and ‘expressive eyelashes’ transmit sparkles from the stage to the auditorium.
At the onset of the drama, Damian Granville (Richard Lynson’s suave and confident banker) seems the perfect person for a holiday fling with the bored, frustrated Anna. However, after falling head over heels in love with her he decisively disintegrates into a limp, besotted middle-aged twerp.
Laura Glover (Elaine Granville) completely nails the rejected wife; she delivers, some of the best lines in the play, with pace and packed with punch.
The coruscating comic skills of Duncan Macinnes (Carl Dennis) weld the four characters together and keep the audience buoyant. Carl is a prospective Tory candidate who frets about his infected eye that he calls his ‘war wound’.
The time scoots by - no one in the audience was fumbling in a pocket for a device, or wondering whether to nip out after the interval.
No, these charismatic actors kept everyone engaged in their plight; at times the poignancy of the lovers’ passion gripped the emotions as here and there a slight sniff or rustle of a Kleenex could be heard in the theatre,
The 1920s set, designed by Oscar Selfridge, was warm and welcoming on a bitter March evening. The bright turquoise decking seemed to exude the cry of seagulls and the smell of ozone. An exceptionally versatile set: initially a promenade location converting to a hotel bedroom for illicit love, two lonely homes, the auditorium of a theatre and other diverse locations.
The glorious and inviting colours of the set have been superbly lit by the skilled lighting director, Michele Cadei.
Giulia Scrimieri’s 1920s costume designs are a treat. Vintage? Surely most of them are vintage? And ‘divine’, yes, ‘divine’; the frocks worn by Beth Burrows could have danced from a V&A display cabinet to the Tabard. The accompanying props sustain this period piece perfectly.
Even the mimed Pomeranian dog, oh-so-lovingly treated by her mistress, and so perfectly pandered to by her mistress’s seducer, seems to wag its pampered tail in front of the foot lights.
A simmering soufflé of adulterous passion, a brilliant well-oiled cast, tempered by Mark Giesser’s ingenious and exuberant script creates an uplifting evening in Chiswick’s popular local theatre - The Tabard. Our fingers are crossed that Simon Reilly, the Tabard Theatre’s Manager, continues to scout out many more productions of this ilk.
There’s no point in hassling with transport and West End prices when you can find a perfect, polished play such as this one patiently waiting on your doorstep for a visit from you before it closes on the 7 April, 2018.
Ultimately, though this is a production that deserves a transfer ‘lock, stock and barrel’ to London’s West End ASAP!
The Tabard Theatre is at 2 Bath Road, just around the corner from Turnham Green Station.