Pros: This never-before-seen play has funny moments and quirky characters.
Cons: The meandering writing and cramped staging let it down.
The Finborough, the dinky pub theatre above the plain but cosy Finborough Arms, is fond of rediscovering forgotten twentieth century plays. Sometimes, as with The Passing of the Third Floor Back last year, the attempts are charming and reasonably successful. This time, however, with war poet Robert Graves’ never-performed late-1929 play But It Still Goes On, the play feels as much of a silly parlour game as the one depicted onstage.
Set in the years after World War I, the play deals with the effects of ‘the great catastrophe’ on a wealthy family and their various friends and lovers. It seems the play was never performed at the time of its conception as it deals quite openly with gay (and, even more daringly, lesbian) relationships. However, this topical content should not have been enough to merit the staging of this rather poorly conceived, entirely too-long work. With, in addition, a dull marquee-cum-army tent set and a tiny stage cluttered by a cast of nine, Fidelis Morgan’s production does little to help this unexciting story of privileged entanglement go down better.
That this play still constitutes a relatively enjoyable evening is down to a few committed and amusing performances. Alan Cox as camp, jovial but despondent and disillusioned poet Dick stands out, perhaps because he is given one of the more well-developed characters to play. One feels that with a bigger stage and a better-written play (the contemporarily edited dialogue makes it feel all the more forced and unnatural), this energetic team could have produced something quite good. In this case, however, the novelty of ‘rediscovering’ But It Still Goes On wears off rather too quickly.
Written by: Robert Graves
Directed by: Fidelis Morgan
Produced by: Andrew Maunder
Booking until: 4th August 2018
Booking Link: https://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2018/but-it-still-goes-on.php
Box Office: 01223 357 851