Muddy reviews: A Room With A View
A Room With A View is among Britain’s best-loved stories – both in EM Forster’s 1908 novel and in the 1985 screen version starring Helen Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith. It was a rom-com before there was even such a thing. Add national treasure Felicity Kendal and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.
Adrian Noble’s production puts Kendal centre stage. She’s the reason there was barely vacant seat at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre last night. And as you’d expect, she is delightful.
If you don’t know the story, it’s set the in the Edwardian era where pomp and propriety are all important, but also where upper middle class women are starting to gain some freedoms in their lives. Feminism is a strong theme, as is the class structure of English Edwardian society.
Kendal plays Charlotte Bartlett, the strait-laced spinster cousin of sheltered Lucy Honeychurch. In the first half, the pair are in Florence – Lucy seeking adventure with Charlotte as her chaperone. They meet a group of fellow English tourists that includes novelist Eleanor Lavish and the Emersons, a father and son who are socially beneath them.
Lucy witnesses a murder, is impulsively kissed by the younger Emerson, George, and finds herself whisked off to Rome by her prim older cousin Charlotte.
Act two brings us back to England – to Surrey, in fact – and moves us forward 18 months. Lucy is getting engaged to the patronising and pretentious, but also rich and suitably connected, Cecil Vyse.
The production really comes together here. I found it almost a little slow in the beginning, although perfectly pleasant, but I was really drawn into the characters and their stories in the second half.
There’s a hilarous scene where the Honeychurch ladies stumble upon a George and Lucy’s brother Freddy bathing nude in the pond. And yes, the pair, along with the vicar, are literally frolicking naked on the stage.
Irish actress Lauren Coe shines as the blossoming Lucy, gain poise and self assurance as the play progresses – although never so much as Kendal. Tom Morley is very good as the shy and self-conscious George Emerson, and Charlie Anson plays Cecil with the right mix of arrogance and posh toff-ness.
Other stand outs are Jeff Rawle as Mr Emerson and Abigail McKern as Mrs Honeychurch and Joanne Pearce as Eleanor Lavish.
Large projected screens take us neatly between the streets of Florence and the rolling green hills of Surrey, and the costumes leave not doubt as to which era we’re in.
But this was Kendal’s show really. She captures the essence of Charlotte, and I suspect, the hearts of most of the audience.
A Room With a View is on until Saturday at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Millbrook, Guildford, GU1 3UX. Tel: 01483 44 00 00. yvonne-arnaud.co.uk