BWW Review: CYRIL'S SUCCESS, Finborough Theatre
Cyril Cuthbert's plays and novels are flying, but his wife is stuck at home while he carouses with the lads. At least Mrs Cuthbert has the dashing, but impecunious, Major Treherne to escort her to the opera but, when a note from his lover cum meal ticket, the young widow Mrs Bliss, falls from his pocket, we're in Desdemona and the handkerchief territory (and there's a nod in the script towards Othello), as confusion leads to jealousy and melodramatic accusations!
If that plot sounds ever so slightly mechanical, you're right, but that's not really what Cyril's Success is all about. Its writer, HJ Byron, was something of an Ayckbourn of his day (and there's more than a touch of AA in this piece) and, 150 years on, he can still get a laugh. It's an amusing, witty, literate comedy that hardly stretches the audience, but, performed with the élan that Hannah Boland Moore persuades from her talented cast, it's perfect fare for a chilly February evening.
Isabella Marshall, with a touch of the young Jenny Agutter in her look and pin-sharp diction, is a winningly winsome neglected wife, continually egged on in her frustrations by the cynical pseudo-spinster Miss Grannet, a splendid turn from Susan Tracy.
As rivals thrown together by misapprehension, Tim Gibson has enough charm and charisma to carry off Cyril Cuthbert, a man we should dislike, but can't quite, while Will Kelly all but twirls his moustache villainously as the military roué, who turns out to be kinder than he first appears.
Supporting the principals, Allegra Marland is sassy and sexy as the flirtatious widow with Lewis Hart and Stephen Rashbrook having a high old time of it as two theatrical hangers-on, with fine lines in indignation and world-weary vituperation respectively.
Stir in some WS Gilbert-style satire on the trades of acting and criticism, some lovely well observed costumes and a set surprisingly evocative of a mid-Victorian middle class home and what's not to like? Another gem, albeit in a minor key, given new life by a theatre that hits far more often than it misses when delving into Britain's forgotten theatrical heritage. Nice one!