United Players of Vancouver
The Circle
By Somerset Maugham

Dates and Venue 14 November - 7 December 2008, 8pm | Jericho Arts Centre

Director Adam Henderson Set Design R. Todd Parker Costume Design Kyla Gardiner Lighting Maria Rondot Stage Manager Maria Denholme

Reviewer Jane Penistan

The Circle is one of Maugham’s witty, penetrating and stylish comedies. Set in an England of the immediate post 1st World War, it is full of the freedom and return to affluence of the early 1920s. While still overshadowed by Queen Victoria’s strictures, Edwardian behaviour was becoming even freer in this Georgian age. Maugham’s astringent wit pokes fun at the straight laced and pompous and enjoys the happiness and perils of nonconformity to the current social mores.

The cat will be among the pigeons in the first scene with the self-satisfied, pernickety well off Arnold Champion-Cheney (Noel Johansen) and his young wife Elizabeth (Alexis Kellum-Creer) entertain some ill-assorted guests to dinner, in their tasteful, comfortable family house.

Guests will be young Teddy Luton (Jesse Donaldson), Lady “Kitty” Champion-Cheney (Andree Karas), mother of Arnold, with Lord Porteous (Glen Pinchin). Self invited will be Clive Champion-Cheney (Don Glossop), Lady Kitty’s divorced husband. An old friend is also present, the charming Anna Shenstone (Maura Halloran). With such a volatile mix of generations and relationships, sparks are sure to fly, and fly they do with Maugham’s repartee dialogue sparkling with wit and humour.

Lady Kitty is still the flirt she was when she and Clive were still married. Their son Arnold, now a successful, well off businessman and collector of fine antique furniture and paintings, regards his wife of three years as part of his exquisite collection of treasure. She, bored with being a pampered collector’s item, is casting her eye on the dashing but feckless Teddy.

Calmly watching what is going on is the still in love, but wise and somewhat cynical Clive. In the end, after revelations and confessions, all ends peacefully and happily.

The production moves at a good pace and all the cast develop their characters with intelligence and sensitivity. This is a company show with all the performers interacting with each other in unison.
The women’s costumes are elegant and in keeping with the fashions of the era of the play. There is much attention to detail here. As the men’s apparel is more difficult to authenticate it is not as successful. Todd Parker has designed a charming set so it is unfortunate that the furniture, of which Arnold is a connoisseur, is anything but what is discussed in the script. Apart from this flaw this is an excellent and very entertaining presentation. Adam Henderson and his company are to be congratulated.

© 2008 Jane Penistan