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Cyril's Success

Henry J Byron
Marooned Theatre
Finborough Theatre

Cyril's Success

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Finborough Arms building, the theatre has programmed a season of plays written in the year of its construction.

The first of these is a comedy drama written by Henry J Byron and directed by Hannah Boland Moore, which has a convoluted plot with vague echoes of Much Ado About Nothing.

It opens as Tim Gibson’s playwright and novelist Cyril Cuthbert is riding high. His literary works are all successes, while he is happily married to a devoted if jealous wife, Catherine, played by Isabella Marshall.

As so often with creative types, Cyril is a little unworldly and cannot for the life of him remember why 10 May should be of significance to the little lady.

He is hardly the first husband to forget an anniversary but few have paid so dearly for the oversight.

A promise of a night out enjoying Il barbiere mollifies the little lady but is sidelined thanks to the efforts of the odd duo of Pincher and Titeboy (respectively Stephen Rashbrook and Lewis Hart), the former suave but cold, his friend greasy and nerve-wracked, with their counter-offer of a party and improved business prospects.

Silly Cyril passes his wife off to Will Kelly as the rakish, moustachioed Major Treherne, who happily squires her to the opera and a world of unjustified rumour.

The arrival of old spinsterish schoolmarm, Miss Grannet played with glee by Susan Tracy, pours oil on the troubled waters. Her vindictiveness is explained by an unfortunate, day-long marriage 22 years before, from which the old lady has never quite recovered.

That fine old plot device, a dropped and misinterpreted love letter from a lovely femme fatale, Allegra Marland taking the role of Mrs Bliss, then sets in train an often hilarious series of arguments and even a fatal duel before an ending that ends as every classical comedy should with smiles all round.

This revival takes place on a perfectly judged set designed by Daisy Blower and features some good performances. It generates much laughter and the opportunity to consider gender politics today in the light of the fashion a century and a half ago.

Quite whether this relatively lightweight period piece was originally intended to be a melodrama, a comedy of manners or a farce may be open to debate by members of a modern audience. In any event, it is highly enjoyable and comes across as a mixture of each of these elements, fully justifying resurrection to the London stage for the first time since 1890. The mouth waters at the prospect of its fellow celebrants over the next few months.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher