Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

The Trouble With Old Lovers

Highbury Theatre Centre


Terrace or totty? That seems to be the dilemma facing barrister Tom as the curtain falls on Angela Huth’s love triangle . . . well pentangle really.

It all starts with the terrace, mind you, as Tom delights in a Saturday afternoon on his own, selecting mail order garden furniture for the terrace he has been designing and creating seemingly forever at their West Country home.

Life, if not exactly idyllic, is at least comfortable with few surprises, that is until wife Alice arrives home from a friend’s wedding where she has perhaps toasted the bride, and indeed anyone else, a little too often and, with the room slowly spinning around before her, announces she has invited old friends they once knew, Edward and Laura, to call in on their way back to London, call in, as in come to dinner.

Old, in this case, as being last seen some 20 years ago and knew as being knew in the Biblical sense with Edward being Alice’s old flame and Laura Tom’s pre-marital fling, a fling which it appears he has not completely flung.

To complicate matters further Edward and Laura bring along a woman, Mary, staying in the same hotel, who is travelling back to London with them.

It’s a bit of a cheek really as no one knows her, but what can you do? Except Tom does know her, or did – we are back to Biblical again -  and as the night progresses, the past has that nasty habit of catching up to reveal skeletons in pretty well everyone’s closet.

Martin Walker’s Tom goes from comfortable lawyer, generally content with life, except when his Sunday is disturbed by a dinner party and guests he could well do without, to a breaking then broken man as his past, once hinted at, is fleshed out, flesh being a more than appropriate word in this case.

While Alison Cahill’s homely Alice is happily absorbed in studying for her Open University humanities degree and, in general, leaving Tom to play with his terrace, until his past puts a strain on her own humanities.

They are a pleasant enough couple, although Tom’s habit of talking in red-top style headlines must grate on Alice’s nerves – or the nerves of anyone he knows to be honest: “Barister a real pain” as he might say.

Andrew Leigh-Dugmore’s Edward, on the other hand, is the sort of person only a mother could really like, and she probably had reservations at that. He is smug, self-satisfied and . . . well self everything really having risen to chairman of a family wine firm – not his family, he is quick to point out, which is something that he, and probably no one else, feels adds to his achievement - with achieving and winning all part of his way of life.


Sharon Clayton gives us a Laura who is the perfect little wife, doting and dutiful, if a little dull for would be high flyer Ed, and unlike Alice, who finds merely deciding on what to make for meals each day a tedious chore, Laura positively thrives on deciding what to cook and then making it to please her husband.

But somehow, behind all the steady, solid relationships, there is just a hint that the spark has faded, or even gone out completely.

So enter Mary, the other woman, who brings not so much a spark as a flame thrower to the party to threaten the security of smug Edward and his doting wife and, as Tom might put it, lands Barister in fidelity probe.

Mandy Yeomans gives us first a Mary curious to see what Alice is like and to confront, or at least ask questions of Tom again, then as the sun, and the wine, goes down the idea of a woman scorned seems to grow in her mind until finally it comes to a head in an explosive few minutes which shatters the cosy life of Tom and Alice with Edward finding himself as collateral damage and pretty badly wounded after being led into mortal danger by his groin.

Having laid waste to all around her Mary bids a less than fond farewell, telling Tom, he has to make a choice, Alice or her; Edward, subdued and tail firmly between legs, and Laura, now not so much doting as dictating terms, leave to drive to London and amid the debris Tom and Alice are left picking up the pieces from their dinner party from Hell.

Oh, and Tom still has a decision to make . . . as we said, is it going to be terrace or totty, slabs or sex?

The plot is perhaps a little unlikely, but we can live with that, and Huth seems unsure whether this is comedy, farce or drama, so there are elements of all three as we build up to the final explosion of emotions, which is handled well with Yeomans convincing as the wronged mistress and Cahill's stony face as she glares at  the now shrinking Tom is a picture of fury mixed with betrayal laced with a hint of "you'll be sorry".

Edward, the deflated would-be Lothario, is squirming with the desperation of a man who cannot cope with losing or being caught out while Laura's years of meek loyal wife look to be out of the window as she starts to put the boot in - probably stiletto first. It is all like watching the proverbial train crash in slow motion as worlds unravel and fall apart.

A mention must go to Malcolm Robertshaw for an excellent set design, which not only looked authentic, even down to wall lights, but had a feeling of solidity about it. No wobbly walls or shaky doors here. A superb job.

If there was a fault it was that the production needed an injection of pace, a situation not helped by a number of prompts, but with a couple of performances now gone, it should quickly settle into its natural rhythm.

Directed by Sheila Knapman the cast create an absorbing drama about relationships, or perhaps more to the point, what lies behind them. To 28-10-17

Roger Clarke


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