Friday 10 September 2010

The Thunderbolt, Orange Tree Theatre

Sam Walters’s fine production of Arthur Wing Pinero’s seldom performed play The Thunderbolt (1908) opened last week at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, the first production of the venue’s Autumn season. Pinero’s drama focuses upon a Midlands family, the Mortimers, squabbling over the estate of the oldest brother Edward who has died without, apparently, leaving a will. Walters’s crystal clear, beautifully modulated and thoroughly involving production is alert to the quick shifts of tone in Pinero’s writing, the sharp humour and the underlying poignancy. Satiric elements here are balanced by a deep compassion. And the ensemble cast couldn’t be bettered. Stuart Fox and Natalie Ogle stand out as the most sympathetic of the family’s members who find themselves unfortunately immersed in a moral quagmire, and Gráinne Keenan (returning to the OT after a great  stage debut in Susan Glaspell’s Allison’s House last year) gives a superb performance as Edward’s  illegitimate daughter Helen, whose arrival stirs things up in unexpected ways. As well as their solid track-record with new work, the Orange Tree can always be relied upon to unearth unsung gems from the British theatrical canon and, with The Thunderbolt, the theatre has uncovered another example. This is a gripping production of a droll and moving play. Catch it until the 2nd October.

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