circle top

Nicholas Le Prevost (left), Jane Asher, Daniel Burke and Pete Ashmore. Picture: Nobby Clark

The Circle

Malvern Theatres


The Circle was written and produced in 1921. The author, Somerset Maugham, was at the height of his career and wrote this comedy of manners with strong strains of his personal life and experience threaded into the play.

The play caused shocks at that time as it depicts a largely depressing and cynical picture of marriage; the breakdown of relationships, the elopements, separations, divorces and realignment of partnerships are much more accepted in the liberal Britain of today than they would have been in the early twentieth century.

Elizabeth Champion-Cheney is a hopeless romantic, three years into a lifeless marriage to Arnold, whose preoccupations with politics and interior design, in particular his recently acquired Sheraton chair, make him incapable of communicating his love for his wife.

Elizabeth finds in Arnold’s mother an example to follow: she, Kitty, deserted her husband Clive to elope with Lord ‘Hughie‘ Porteous in a whirlwind romance that seemed to evaporate after a few years. Principle and duty are sacrificed on the altar of immediate romance and love in the hopes of some elusive future happiness.

This excellent, if cynical, production avoids gloom by virtue of the wonderful humour and wit in the verbal exchanges. Oscar Wilde lives again in the sharp repartee and strong characterisations portrayed. We do not find ourselves empathising deeply with any of the characters: we observe their very human eccentricities and self-conscious frailties.

This production has a talented and superb cast. We are not presented with one or two central heroes, but a fascinating circle of family characters strongly depicted.

Pete Ashmore plays Arnold with a slightly obsessive intensity; Olivia Vinall is a vivacious and sentimental, though frustrated, wife Elizabeth, who falls for the tall, dark and handsome Teddie Luton, played by Daniel Burke, who has little to offer her in terms of happiness and prospects, only his passionate love.

Jane Asher plays Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney in strong, sharp and witty tones; she eloped with ‘Hughie’ who has become quite decrepit and acerbic, brilliantly played by Nicholas Le Prevost.

Clive Francis plays Clive Champion-Cheney as the mischievous and playful father-in-law of Elizabeth; he has become a social player in his widowhood. He is the wild card that upsets the social balances that might have precariously survived but for his interventions. He brings a lot of humour to the production.

This is an excellent production of a sophisticated and witty drama. The set design provides a gracious and elegant backdrop to the action with its stylish simplicity. The pace of the performance is excellent and the silences are poignant and used brilliantly. ‘The Circle’ runs at Malvern till Saturday 17th February.

Tim Crow


Index page Malvern Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre