Home » Reviews » Trelawny of the Wells, Donmar Warehouse

Trelawny of the Wells, Donmar Warehouse

Arthur Wing Pinero
Directed by Joe Wright

★★★

Pros: This is a funny, easily digestible performance with a great cast and clever stage direction. The costumes and props evoke a real sense of the age and provides a big stage feel in the small Donmar space.

Cons: It is a very old-fashioned play and a little predictable with it. Whilst it has humour and finesse, it lacks charisma. I found it a bit dull despite some wonderful acting.

Our Verdict: This is a period costume drama which may be popular with those who like Sunday night television. I think visitors to London will love it but there is nothing particularly notable to recommend it.


Courtesy of The Donmar Warehouse

This play was written in 1898 and this performance certainly sets about evoking the spirit of that theatrical age. Big dresses, dandy fops, over enunciating theatrical thespians, dames and dowagers. This play is full of characters and caricatures alike. It is the story of an actress, the star of the Wells theatre, Rose Trelawney, who leaves the theatrical life to marry her beau, Arthur Gower. Arthur is from an upper class family who disapprove of Rose and with whom she cannot get on. As the play develops, we see a ‘play within a play’ reveal the true feelings of the couple and there is a jolly, happy ending.

There isn’t an awful lot of plot, it is the characters who are the highlight of the show and they are brought to life by a wonderful cast. Many of them play two parts, one from the Wells ‘family’ of actors and one from the Gower family with the two starkly contrasting parts enhancing the humour. Ron Cook is particularly entertaining as Mrs Mossop and Sir William Gower, the first performed with Panto-Dame energy and the latter with snobbish disdain. Both characters are wonderfully funny and there is one scene where they are almost on stage at the same time! Daniel Mays is superb as the foppish dandy Ferdinand Gadd and I loved Aimeé-Ffion Edwards’ innocuously witless Avonia Bunn. Peter Wight and Maggie Steed are true jewels of the stage, bringing superb wit and affection to their respective performances. It is against these fabulous caricatures that Amy Morgan as Rose Trelawney and Joshua Silver as Arthur Gower pale a little as the ‘straight’ central characters. Overall though, the cast do a wonderful job of bringing humour and fun to the stage and this is the most enjoyable aspect of this production.

The set and scene changes are wonderful and credit should go to Hildegard Bechtler for bringing a big stage atmosphere to the small performance space at the Donmar. The costumes are grand and very apt for this period. However, this is where it falls out of favour with me – the period drama is dated and just a bit dull. It has a predictable air about it and we know how it ends almost before it has begun. Even the humour is anticipated –there are few surprises, few clever twists or interesting asides. In fact, to discuss the plot at all would give the entire game away – it could be surmised in a couple of sentences.

That said, it is inoffensive and jolly and has its own charm which some may find appealing. It is a very ‘safe’ choice of scripts and a surprising one considering it follows a controversial and progressive all-female Julius Caesar. Maybe this is the Donmar’s point – to bring something to every audience. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that the play brought anything new or engaging to the stage, something I feel is important in keeping people coming back to the theatre to ensure that it thrives.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Trelawney of the Wells runs at Donmar Warehouse until 13th April 2013
Box Office: 0844 871 7624or book online at
http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/whats-on/donmar-warehouse/2013/trelawny-of-the-wells

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