A True Born Englishman

Peter Barnes
Original Theatre Company and Perfectly Normal Productions
Original Theatre Online

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Adrian Scarborough as Bray

Leslie Bray had to sign the Official Secrets Act but says he has special permission to speak to us, to give the half-hour talk that we now see.

It is the last of the four monologues from Barnes’ People being given online productions and director Philip Franks offers an almost identical introduction, establishing that it is a piece of theatre, until the stage set morphs into a realistic-looking room where genteel Mr Bray is ensconced in an armchair sipping tea.

He is not as you might thing a spy or even a serviceman but has spent a quarter of a century serving the royals in Buckingham Palace. His father was a music hall entertainer while his mother played the piano at children’s parties. They split up when the halls folded and dad started playing workingmen’s clubs: she wasn’t going to stay married to a man who spent his time entertaining communists. So he didn’t go into show business but into service: hotel work. It was when he was a porter at the Palace Hotel, Paddington that a footman succumbing to DTs created an opening at the Palace.

Adrian Scarborough’s well-spoken, deferential First Door Footman is an immaculate performance as he describes how he got the job, his rise through the ranks and his doctrine of silent servility: the true-born Englishmen knows his place and and it is natural for him to find satisfaction in serving his betters.

This softly spoken recital of respect, scattered with occasional anecdote, is a delightful satire on class and palace protocol delivered with a light touch. Because we are watching a recording (halfway through there is a glimpse of the set up to remind us), it even ends with a reminder of how, though he prizes his position with royalty, it gains him no respect from those who have been filming him. Scarborough gets it just right.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton