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A CurtainUp London Review
Home and Beauty
by Lizzie Loveridge
The situation is not one which immediately strikes you as comic. Victoria a dear little thing (Victoria Hamilton) is the frivolous widow of William Cardew a hero, missing in action (Alexander Armstrong) and has married Frederick Lowndes another hero (Jamie Theakston), her dead husband's best friend. Suddenly her first husband returns from the dead. The twist is that Victoria actually would like to marry another man, Leicester Paton a wangler, member of parliament and rather good at obtaining rationed goods and servants. Instead of fighting over Victoria, both of her husbands would like to be free.
The first act sets the scene in Victoria's bedroom, a frothy pink rococo boudoir with pink drapes, one of the only two rooms heated in the house because of the coal shortage due to the war effort. The second is played in an elegant, creamy Charles Rennie Mackintosh drawing room and looks at the three men Victoria is entangled with, and the problem of obtaining servants when women are working in munitions factories. The final act, set in a large Edwardian kitchen, where both husbands are fulfilling the role of cook and servants, has the visit from the divorce lawyer (Charles Kay) to set up the required adultery. Party to this intrigue, is the formidable Miss Montmorency (Janet Henfrey), a professional co-respondent, who passes the night with her clients in games of cards.
I found it a funny play, light relief in a busy week. Victoria Hamilton plays it completely over the top, like a bad actress in a melodrama, often quivering with emotion. She employs some extreme physical moves while she swoons with emotion-- stretched out, arms raised above her head, hanging off the door posts or with her hand on her forehead in heroic pose. Well, you get the idea!
Now Victoria Hamilton is a very accomplished actress and I surmise that this portrayal is intended to spice up the comedy of the play. For all this, her performance is not a disaster, but rather silly and very amusing. Remember Maugham wanted us to laugh? The rest of the cast play it straight, foils to Victoria's excesses. There is the handsome Jamie Theakston, tentatively tackling only his second West End role, after success as a television presenter, calming sitting still while Victoria throws herself around.
This play is very well dressed and the sets are extravagant, although the bedroom, like the production, is somewhat lacking in taste and decorum. There is though, serious social comment on the ridiculous nature of the divorce laws and the post war socio-economic change which led to fewer people being employed in service. Victoria Hamilton's performance has offended some critics but not this one. I enjoyed Home and Beauty, as did the French couple behind me, who may have found the language difficult, but could join in with the laughter at the physical humour.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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