Fringe Box



Review: The Sacred Flame – Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 24 Oct, 2012
Updated on: 24 Oct, 2012

Beatriz Romilly as Stella Tarbret and Robert Demeger as Maj. Liconda– photo by Mark Douet

By The Stage Dragon

The English Touring Theatre has made a bit of a name for itself as a risk taking company. It has been unafraid, over the years, to select the work of some of the more neglected playwrights such as Terence Rattigan, now, of course, considered as one of the British greats.

If their production of Somerset Maugham’s, The Sacred Flame, a classic murder mystery which explores the boundaries of honour, forgiveness, and “the Sacred Flame” of love, is anything to go by, I hope they continue to take risks. They are paying off.

Through excellent direction from Matthew Dunster and splendid design from Anna Fleischle, Maugham’s work is showcased beautifully; with small moments of comedy giving light relief to the otherwise dramatic and quite often poignant dialogue.

Sarah Churm as Nurse Wayland – photo by Mark Douet

The story follows that of a paralysed war hero, Maurice Tabret, excellently played by Jamie De Courcey, who subsequently dies under suspicious circumstances close to the end of Act 1. We then see Maurice’s family and friends come to terms with the pain of losing a loved one and having to deal with the accusations from Nurse Wayland (Sarah Churm) that he may have been murdered.

The set is completely transparent throughout. Dunstan keeps Maurice onstage through the entire play. A simple design is used, giving the house a modern feel with what we are lead to imagine are large glass walls in this natural minimalistic house. This is highly effective.

The costume, however, is kept within the 1920’s setting and whilst usually I would be somewhat apprehensive with mixed period designs, it definitely works. Lee Curran and Emma Laxton’s lighting and sound designs respectively deserve praise too, working together to give subtle underscoring to accompany Maugham’s poetic dialogue.

Excellent performances are given from all the cast, who as a company keep good pace and skilfully reveal a varying relationships between the characters. Jamie De Courcey as Maurice has great timing and gives a heart-breaking performance in his final scene with Beatriz Romilly, who plays Maurice’s wife Stella Tabret.

Beatriz Romilly – photo by Mark Douet

As a character, Stella is hard to grasp at first; Romilly plays her very well with superb moments of realness, at times though she tends to over-project and could do with slightly more emotion in the previously mentioned scene with De Courcey.

Robert Demeger is perfectly cast as Major Liconda, an old friend of the Tabret family. He gives an accurately stiff portrayal of the old ex-army man who has once known love, delivering his lines bluntly and barely moving whilst onstage.

Margot Leicester as Mrs Tabret plays her character beautifully, in the background. Unfortunately, her line deliveries just aren’t as tight as the rest of the company and she tends to shuffle from one foot to the other whilst speaking, which becomes incredibly distracting. However, her emotional connection and physicality throughout is stunning.

Standing out though and growing into her character as the play develops is Sarah Churm as Nurse Wayland. At first, a fairly annoying nurse who seems overbearing and overcommitted, we begin to understand her reasons for being so as the play progresses. Churm shows excellent light and shade in her characterisation which allows the audience to grow with her and by the end of the play, we are able to completely sympathise with the motives in her behavior.

With interesting twists and clever staging, I recommend seeing this English Touring Theatre production before it moves on. But hurry, it is showing at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre only until Saturday 27 October.

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