Home » Reviews » Off West End » So Great a Crime, Finborough Theatre

So Great a Crime, Finborough Theatre

Written and Directed by David Gooderson

Pros: Solid performances from the cast, especially from Stuart McGugan in the lead role of Hector MacDonald.

Cons: The objective of the play is a little unclear, although the script is good overall.

Our Verdict: Not the best to come from this West London paradise, but well worth a watch nonetheless!

Courtesy of the Finborough Theatre

The Finborough Wine Café remains closed. However, the theatre has reclaimed the area which used to house the bar (although they can’t sell drinks) which, as the Artistic Director joked, gives the Finbo “the most spacious box office in London”. Their most recent piece is called So Great a Crime, written and directed by David Gooderson, whose claim to fame is that he played Davros in the BBC’s Doctor Who. I’ll spare you any Time Lord-based puns this time…

So Great a Crime is basically a biography of a certain Major-General in the British Army from the time when Queen Victoria ruled the Empire. Rising from the Scottish working class, Hector Macdonald became a leading officer in the Army and an important military official of British Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. So Great a Crime plots his rise, and then eventually his downfall at the hands of accusations of homosexuality during his time in the colony. As the epilogue points out, the tragic story is still shrouded in mystery (was it an orchestrated set-up, or was he really ‘guilty’?) and Gooderson’s play seeks to explore the events leading to his suicide.

Although the subject matter of Gooderson’s production is replete with potential for gripping theatre, I felt that the objective of the play was not clear. Was it trying to clear Macdonald’s name? Or present both sides of the story? Was it a comment on the persecution of homosexuals in Colonial British society, or a show about the difficulties of a working-class Scot trying to fit into a world of upper-class Englishmen? Perhaps it was all of the above. In any case, despite the issue raised above, the script remained entertaining and well penned.

The show used a theatrical device where soldiers who are guarding Macdonald’s corpse as it travels back to Edinburgh for his funeral re-enact his life and the ‘scandal’ leading to his death. This was well done by the performers, who jump from ‘real world’ to ‘re-enactment’ seamlessly, even though this often requires changing costumes, accents and demeanour. The lead role of Macdonald, played by Stuart McGugan conveys the stoic and sometimes difficult personality of the main character and his performance carries the show. Overall, the acting is of a high standard, with an energetic and dynamic cast.

To sum up, So Great a Crime is an interesting production, and as usual the design and performances are of the standard we have come to expect of Finborough productions. The only criticism to make is that message of the play gets a little lost on the way: perhaps the show was trying to do too many things at once. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable and entertaining, and well worth a watch.

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

So Great a Crime runs at the Finborough Theatre until 22nd January 2013.
Box Office: 0844 847 1652 or book online at http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2013/so-great-a-crime.php

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