Review by Paul Nelson
IT IS excellent to be able to report that there is a lot of good
acting going on in Highgate and, in addition the theatre, the
splendidly proportioned Upstairs at the Gatehouse, provides
a comfort rare for the Fringe during a heatwave in London.
Two good reasons then for going to see Congreve's masterpiece,
The Way of the World, though there are even more excellent
The play is too rarely performed and when it is, usually sets
the teeth. It is long, and interesting, but unless that interest
has involved the audience from the beginning as the plot is laid,
the play fails to grab the audience.
A lot of the reason this production avoids that pitfall is that
it is presented in modern dress, and to great success, a fashion
to which I do not regularly subscribe.
The play first came to my notice when I was a grammar school
boy with an English teacher who was a bit of a thespian on the
We 'did' The Way of the World when I was 12-years-old and he
commanded our interest completely by telling us the play was all
about gossip and done through conversation.
When he further explained the names painted the characters and
habits of the dramatis personae, I and the rest of the form were
Mirabel (try ADmirable), Millamant (loved by thousands) Lady
Wishfort (dying for it) and so on. It's a good parlour game for
Freed from the trappings and fashions (not to say mannerisms)
of 1700, the cast at The Gatehouse leap on to the play with joy
and from the moment in scene one in the chocolate house when Mirabel
admits to a plan he has concocted and Fainall, (dodgy name, try
anything) cottons on to it, the audience is, as Congreve planned,
as hooked as I was in my salad days.
This is also due to two more very important factors. First, the
casting is excellent, each actor presumably drawn for his suitability
from, one suspects, a pool of rather more than the present group,
and secondly the direction.
I have raved about Melissa Holston in the past (and wailed I
must admit), but now she has her head let her go, say I. She obviously
has the ability to thrill an audience so let her get to it.
The joys of this performance are manifold. The drunken scenes
are so wondrously funny, both Petulant and Sir Wilfull performing
hilarious knockabout antics that your enjoyment in these two is
secured. However, the evening only begins with this perfection.
The dashing Mirabel and the smooth Fainall are excellent. Witwoud,
too, cannily aware of the trap set by this modern dress version,
resists translating the mannerisms into those of just another
That's a fine line to walk and the actor does it well. Mirabel's
servant Waitwell, posing as Sir Rowland, would be suitor to Lady
Wishfort, is so phoneyly dashing and romantic that I laughed heartily.
The ladies are in total command of their scenes, their men, and
their roles. Foible, compliant in Mirabel's plot, shows both liveliness
and zeal, as well as suitable grief at the thought of a prison
term, Mrs Fainall the faithful wronged wife is finely drawn and
Millamant and Marwood are both faithful to their parts and their
However, it is due to the wild imagination of Helen Bachrich,
as Lady Wishfort, that all others pale before this character.
Her wilder statements regarding her views and, in particular,
her own appearance and charms are so very funny, and they get
such good shrift, that the evening, already secure, takes off.
It is good to see such a play performed with a flair not easily
found these days. The company would be justified if it patted
itself on the back.
I look forward to seeing their next and hope the wait is not
Bravo to Tyger's Heart.
The Way of the World by William Congreve, Directed by Melissa
Holston, Design by Naomi Dawson, Costume Design Emmett de Monterey-Rose,
Lighting and Sound Design Derek Carlyle. WITH: Philip Mansfield
(Fainall), Bryan Pilkington (Mirabel), Daniel Wexler (Witwoud),
James Quarton (Petulant), Ashley Stanton (Sir Wilfull Witwoud),
Jonathan Ashley (Waitwell), Helen Bachrich (Lady Wishfort), Victoria
Walker (Mrs Millamant), Kerry McAleese (Mrs Marwood), Lisa May
(Mrs Fainall), Deborah Lynton (Foible), Kerry McAleese (Mincing).
Produced by Tyger's Heart at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Hampstead
Lane, Highgate Village, London N6. Tickets 8340 3488.