A soap style drama resurrected with more than a touch of class. Review of Jane Clegg now showing at The Finborough Theatre Earls Court – described as Probably the most influential fringe theatre in the world by Time Out. Running every day except Mondays until 18 May – last performance. Check times on the website before going.
Review by Penny Nair Price for The Saturn Herald.
In some ways shocking but in other ways, in modern times, unsurprising, is Jane Clegg by St John Ervine expertly produced at The Finborough Theatre for a limited time only and chosen by Neil McPherson – artistic director at The Finborough. This is its first production in London for 75 years and is set in 1913. The purpose of this type of drama was and is to examine women who are strong and want more from life in direct opposition to soft overly feminine characters who are too easily put down and ignored and abused.
Jane Clegg (actress Alix Dunmore) portrays a woman married to Henry (Actor Brian Martin) a man who has become disillusioned with family life and has taken to infidelity and betting to stem his ultimate boredom with his wife and children, Johnny and Jenny, expertly portrayed as being lovable kids, by Theo Wilkinson and Eve Prenelle. Finally driven to fraud and theft. Henry, Jane’s husband, shows his worst colours, flaring up at his wife and live-in mother as the ladies gradually discover the extent of his bad behavior. Mr Munce – (Matthew Sim) – his one time friend, is demanding money owed from betting and is full of Henry’s scandalous behavior including getting his bit of skirt pregnant. Mr Morrison – Sidney Livingstone, is calling around to find out where the money from a cashed cheque to the company has gone. Jane Clegg – a cut above the throng, keeps her calm but starchily confers about all this scandal and money grabbing with an aloof and feminine charm.
Poor Jane Clegg , and her mother in law Mrs Clegg – (Maev Alexander), hold the fort whilst trying to placate and remonstrate at Henry Clegg, who has a furious bad temper which must put the shivers on some of the audience. I only hope he can resume a usual happy disposition between his lightening performances! Alix Dunmore reminded me a bit of Emma Thompson and Maev Alexander plays the doting and defending mother to perfection also raising her tone several volumes with finesse to try and defend herself and her daughter in law on the inevitable unreliability and mischievous cheating and unreliable nature of the male sex. Therefore any man who defends men may find this a problem. The ultimate question is, can women not behave in exactly the same way when they are bored or frustrated? And the answer can sometimes be Yes! Mrs Warrens Profession for example.
Henry Clegg remonstrates with his wife Jane that she always made him feel in some way less important and righteous than him which is food for thought. He claims that his new bit of skirt is on the same level and they want to go and live in Canada together and have their baby and be happy.
The ultimate part of the story’s plot is seven hundred pounds which Jane inherited. Henry has been trying to get his hands on it for months. Jane wants to spend it on Johnny and Jenny their children. In the end she has to part with some of it to placate those who are after the demeaned Henry’s debts and it is clear that she is absolutely relieved to get rid of him as he heads to Canada with his pregnant bit of skirt. She is relieved but ultimately saddened and not changed from her feminine doting control of minxy nasty men.
This play is docudrama. Yes this happened and yes some men are cruel and unreliable. Someone has to hold the fort these days too. If you part with a few quid you can see this immensely impressionable drama – made that way by the superlative acting, and not to forget that the ambience in this intimate theatre setting and the actual set on the stage (designer Alex Marker) are a wonderful part of going to The Finborough. Take your friends, your brothers your sisters your neighbours and go and enjoy a great night of drama without the hassle of navigating the West End. The Finborough is also a public house which serves food and a huge array of drinks. Nearest tubes are Earls Court and West Brompton. Enjoy….
Check the website for times and days of the performance first.