Pros: A sweeping romance presented by a charming cast on a gorgeous set.
Cons: From the back of the auditorium the view is occasionally obstructed when the actors are downstage.
Anton Chekhov’s famous short story The Lady with a Dog returns to life at the Tabard Theatre, following a much anticipated transfer from White Bear Theatre. Originally published in 1899, the tale is one of the author’s most famous pieces and was considered by Vladimir Nabokov as one of the greatest short stories ever written.
On a sun-drenched set, this original adaptation by writer and director Mark Giesser sees Beth Burrows as the cute dog-owner Anne Dennis, who finds herself entangled in a whirlwind romance with London banker Damian Granville (Richard Lynson). Unaccompanied by their respective spouses during a summer vacation on the shores of Scotland, the pair get together after Damian lures Anne’s white Pomeranian with a milk-bone biscuit. Initially on the prowl for a brief diversion from his wife Elaine (Laura Glover), he’s unexpectedly struck by her bubbly personality, whilst she’s swept away by his joie de vivre and exquisite gallantry.
Constantly bickering with the phantasms of their partners, the lovebirds come to an abrupt separation when Anne is called back to Wiltshire by her husband Carl (Duncan MacInnes), but the memories of this unforeseen, powerful attraction prove too strong to fade.
Maintaining a respectable public image, the clandestine couple eventually find ways to meet regularly and their short-lived guilt generates some of the most amusing tableaux for the audience to enjoy. It’s easy to sympathise with their case and justify, as they do, the reasons behind their unfaithfulness and the lies they serve to keep their partners satisfied.
Giesser’s graceful writing nods to Charles Dickens’s sarcasm, as well as being reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s aphorisms and characterisation. Carl is depicted as the typical boring husband, whose recurring health indispositions become an excuse to spend more time at home. Elaine, instead, is the demanding and slightly pretentious wife who suspects her consort’s infidelity but is keen to preserve her social status.
The beauty and glamour of the 1920s is celebrated in Oscar Selfridge’s realistic design, which features art deco details both on the set and in the elegant costumes worn by the ladies. Essential and yet curated to the smallest detail, it transports the audience to the seaside, where sunny afternoons are followed by romantically moonlit evenings.
Only the employment of a real Pomeranian would have made this production more delightful than it actually is.
Author: Anton Chekhov
Adapted and Directed By: Mark Giesser
Producer: Alces Productions
Booking Until: 7 April 2018
Box Office: 0208 995 6035
Booking Link: http://tabardtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-lady-with-a-dog/