A Winning Hazard by J.P. Wooler

A Winning Hazard by J.P. Wooler
★★★★✩

Continuing the celebrations for the Finborough Theatre building’s 150th birthday, this production of three comediettas by Londoner J.P. Wooler, is also a celebration of this prolific and successful, yet now almost forgotten, Victorian playwright, as the 150’s anniversary of his death, at just 44 years old, is on September 18th.

The comediettas are A Winning Hazard (1865), the first play produced by Marie Wilton, one of the earliest female theatre producers in London at the Prince of Wales’ Theatre in 1865, starring both herself and her future husband, Sir Squire Bancroft (they are bot buried in Brompton Cemetery, a few steps from the Finborough Theatre), Allow Me to Apologise (1850s) and Orange Blossoms (1860s).

I enjoyed the performance immensely and it seemed so did the rest of the audience, but I also got the feeling the cast were enjoying themselves. There are plenty of swishing crinolines, bonny bonnets, impressive sideburns and even a duel (of sorts), but the pieces felt fresh and, at times, quite modern. Women are not treated as decoration, but their roles show them as forces to be reckoned with, sassy and often in charge, showing their male counterparts up as the fools they sometimes are. Maybe this view of women explains why the playwright never married.

Wooler puts his characters in situations that time stamp the era (A Colonel attempting to get his nephews to settle down with his two wards with a promise of inheritance; a womaniser trying to decide which of the two female wards of an aristocrat to seduce while his own ward admits to the audience that she herself has had a romantic entanglement with one of them while dressed up as a man; a landed woman-hater who is visited by two couples who have a bit more history with each other than their respective spouses know about and who suddenly falls in love with the fifth guest, an outspoken man hater), yet they come across as very forward thinking on subjects like gender, money and class.

You always think of the Victorian times being prudish and serious, but Wooler uses humour and farce to show up the hypocrisy and vanity of the English ruling class.

I can’t really single out any of the cast (see below), all six of them were wonderful. And if they showed a few nerves to begin with, that was soon forgotten as they got in the swing of it.

On Sunday 23 September 2018 you can take part in FINBOROUGHFORUM, an informal panel discussion and Q&A with the cast and production team after the play has finished.

This event is free to ticket holders of the same evening’s performance.  FINBOROUGHFORUM event will be Twitter friendly with live tweets from @FinboroughForum. Using the hashtag #finfor, the speakers will also answer questions posted on Twitter, so everyone can be included, no matter where they are in the world.

Performances are Sunday and Monday Evenings at 7.30pm, Tuesday matinees at 2.00pm

17,18,23,24,25 September 2018

Performance Length: 2 hours 30 minutes with one interval of fifteen minutes.

Tickets £18, £16 concessions

Cast:

Robert Benfield | Colonel Crocker (A Winning Hazard), Sir Peter Pedigree (Allow Me to Apologise), Colonel Clarence (Orange Blossoms)

Jasmine Blackborow | Miss Fanny Fairlove (Allow Me to Apologise), Louisa (Orange Blossoms)

Evelyn Lockley | Aurora Blythe (A Winning Hazard), Kitty/Mary Myrtle (Allow Me to Apologise), Violet Hope (Orange Blossoms)

Max Marcq | Dudley Croker (A Winning Hazard), Captain Seymour (Allow Me to Apologise), Septimus Symmetry (Orange Blossoms)

Edward Mitchell | Jack Crawley (A Winning Hazard), Goliath Goth (Allow Me to Apologise), Falcone Hope (Orange Blossoms)

Josephine Starte | Coralie Blythe (A Winning Hazard), Hariett Seymour (Allow Me to Apologise), Isabella Clarence (Orange Blossoms)

Director Phillip James Rouse makes his London debut at the Finborough Theatre. Phillip is a prolific and much acclaimed director and writer from Sydney, Australia.

Costumes by Martelle Hunt.

www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

 

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