Studio 58: Langara College

Trelawny of the Wells

By Arthur Wing Pinero
Trelawny caricatures

Director:Kathryn Shaw Musical Director: Lloyd Nicholson Set design Bryan Pollock Lighting design: Sharon Huizinga Costume design: Marina Szijarto Stage Manager: Sydney Cavanagh

Dates: 20 March - 6 April 2003

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

This delightful Victorian comedy graces Studio 58 stage. Opening with the full company singing a rollicking number from a Gilbert and Sullivan light opera, the flavour of the variety of an evening's entertainment in mid-19th century is savoured. Crinolines, broad brimmed hats and bonnets, peg top trousers and high starched collars are manoeuvred creditably. The singing throughout is excellent.

Pinero wrote this comedy late in the century, taking a nostalgic look back at the theatre he had enjoyed thirty odd years earlier. He was well aware of the uncertainty of employment for performers and the disdain with which the upper middle class regarded those who gave them so much pleasurable entertainment. The two worlds of theatre and urban respectability are sharply contrasted in Pinero's play.

The lack of understanding between the gypsies of the theatre and the stable, hidebound Victorian establishment becomes a family feud. Ultimately, it is the actor- playwright who brings the two sides together, with the result that love triumphs and all ends happily in true romantic comedy style. Students of Victorian theatre history may find that this theme is reminiscent of 19th-century theatre legend.

Kathryn Shaw has given her students a happy experience in this production. Both the use of accents and style of acting are challenging for a young company, and for the most part these challenges are well met. The swinging moods between despair and joy, abandoned enjoyment and restrictive discipline are well contrasted. The elaborate fashions of mid-19th-century dress are full of colour and extravagant adornment and well worn by the whole cast. Lloyd Nicholson's music, both written into the script and cleverly inserted by the directors is well and appropriately executed.

The set is ingenious and redolent of either the comfortable friendly theatrical lodging house or the austere drawing room of Sir William Gower. The back stage of the provincial theatre is bare and shabby. The lighting is well suited to the various scenes.

As Rose Trelawny, Nicola Correia-Damude sings well and brings conviction to her characterization. She has little or no problem with an accent. Kelly Metzger is a delightful and versatile actor and her Avonia Bunn is a most attractive character, particularly in her gaudy pantomime principal boy costume, when she shocks the staid Trafalgar Gower (Robyn Katrenicz).

Christopher Frary is the diffident Arthur Gower, cowed by his grandfather and madly in love with Rose, who find his way to astonishing his grandfather. Nathan Schwartz is the penniless actor who tries to write a great play and is ultimately the deus ex machina who reconciles Sir William Gower (Kyle Rideout) to the marriage of his grandson Arthur to Rose Trelawny of the Wells. Edwige Jean-Pierre is an admirable bustling landlady of theatrical lodgings, Mrs. Mossop. Josh Epstein's not-as-good-as-he-thinks-he-is tragedian, Ferdinand Gadd, is a nice piece of caricature.

Trelawny of the Wells is a very enjoyable evening's entertainment, well performed by the Studio 58 company. Pinero's work is rarely seen today, but as a period piece, this production is not to be missed.

2003 Jane Penistan