Review by David Munro
THE paternity of this play is almost as complicated as that of
Originally, an obscure play by Frederick Jackson, it was adapted
for the French under the title of Les Enfants d' Edouard,
by Mark-Gilbert Sauvajon, and then re-adapted and revised as Dear
Charles, by Alan Melville, in 1952, when it was a great success
for Yvonne Arnaud, running to 468 performances.
It now re-appears as a vehicle for Joan Collins, entitled
The plot, as realised by Melville, revolves around Denise Darval
(Collins), a successful writer and lecturer, who, as the play
opens, informs her three children that the portrait over he mantelpiece
is not that of their father, as they had always imagined, but
one of an unknown man she had picked up cheap in Brighton.
Each of the children has a separate father and, as her elder
son and his sister are about to get married to the son and daughter
of a stuffy suburban family, she has determined to regularise
her position by marrying one of the fathers.
Each of the fathers has been summoned and the rest of the play
is concerned with her making the choice as to which one she will
Denise, as Yvonne Arnaud proved, is an ideal part for an actress
of mature years, who relies on her charm to see her through the
Miss Arnaud, although she had lived in the UK since before the
First World War, had a French accent, which grew more aggressively
French the longer, she lived.
Alan Melville, therefore, made sure that she could achieve the
maximum effect by giving her lines and situations where she could
twitter in her franglais and still appear charming and adorable.
Joan Collins is an actress who also uses her charm and personality
to achieve results, although as anyone who had seen her early
movies would agree, she is also an actress of considerable talent,
which her later years as a TV diva has tended to obscure.
Triumph Productions have given her a first class director, in
Patrick Garland, and a strong supporting cast, but what the public
want to see is Miss Collins, the legend, in person and, on the
face of it, this particular play makes an admirable showcase for
And the showcasing pays off; Miss Collins gives a star performance
in a star part.
She looks superb, with a figure any model would envy, set off
by a series of elegant changes of costume that do her full credit.
She delivers the lines with perfect timing and proves that she
is a comedienne of style, and not just a pretty face.
My only cavil is that I would have liked to see her in a part
which gave her greater scope to display her abilities, rather
than in this outdated and outmoded piece.
Let us hope that her success in this play will dispel any lack
of confidence she may have garnered from her last foray into the
West End, and we will soon see her in something more appropriate
to her talents.
The rest of the cast have thankless parts, as they are written
as foils for Madame Darval, who dominates any scene in which she
The only time that Melville allows the three husbands something
for themselves is the opening of the second act, when they discuss
the prospects of matrimony with her.
This opportunity is well exploited by John Quayle, as Sir Michael,
the stuffy diplomat, Nickolas Grace, as Jan, a Polish pianist,
and Gary Raymond, as Dominique, a shady financier.
This is not to say that these very experienced players do not
do well in their other scenes, they do; and, despite the author's
opposition, manage to make very believable characters out of their
Nonetheless, when Collins is on stage, her personality, and the
scenes as written, focus all attention on her and anyone else
in the scene tends to come off second best.
Sheila Bernette does her best, as the stereotyped maid, who is
by her own description, 'a treasure', as does Jeffry Wickham,
as Denise's doctor/confidante.
Daniel Roberts, as Walter, Giles Cooper, as Bruno, and Jessica
Robinson, as Martine, Denise's children, run up and down the stairs
of Hugh Durrant's conventional set effectively, but apart from
that have little else to do.
In the rather superfluous part of Madame Duchemin, the mother
of Denise's future son and daughter in law, Judith Hepburn makes
the most of the few minutes she is given on stage at the end of
It is, however, Collins' evening and she does not disappoint.
Although I deplore the setting, nothing can detract from the radiance
of the gem it was fashioned to set off, and for that reason alone
this play is worth seeing.
Full Circle is a silly title for a silly play; Dear
Charles is far more appropriate for the plot, but, after last
night, there is no question but that really the only name for
the piece is Dear Joan.
Full Circle, by Alan Melville, adapted from Les Enfants
d' Edouard, by Marc-Gilbert Sauvajon & Frederick Jackson.
Director, Patrick Garland; Designer, Hugh Durrant; Lighting, Mike
Hughes; Sound, Crispian Lovell.
CAST: Joan Collins; Nickolas Grace; Gary Raymond; John Quayle;
Jeffry Wickham; Judith Hepburn; Jessica Robinson; Giles Cooper;
Emily Woodward; Brian Lonsdale; Sheila Bernette; Emily Woodward;
Presented by Duncan C Weldon and Paul Elliott for Triumph Entertainments
Ltd. At New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London,
From Tues, April 13 - Sat, 17. Evenings Tues - Sat 7.30pm; Matinees
Thurs.& Sat 2.30pm.
Box Office 0870 060 1827.