A fine and dandy racing romp

A moonlight tableau as things come to a head at St Marvell's Deanery . . .

Dandy Dick

The New Alexandra Theatre

****

IT'S 125 years since Dandy Dick first entered the theatrical paddock as a newcomer from the pen of Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, not that you would know it.

This Theatre Royal Brighton production is as fresh as a sea breeze across Marine Parade, funny and cantering along at a cracking pace.

Patricia Hodge stars as Georgina Tidman, racehorse owner and trainer fallen on hard times and sister of the Dean of St Marvells, the Very Rev Augustin Jedd, played with vague horror as his well ordered world crumbles around him, by Nicholas Le Prevost.

Gus, as his sister calls him, has two extravagant daughters, Salome and Sheba, played with delightful charm by Florence Andrews and Jennifer Rhodes, who are romantically involved with soldiers Mr Darby, - a mere lieutenant - played by Charles de Bromhead – who plays a mean violin incidentally - and Major Tarver , played by Peter Sandys-Clarke, The daughters are plotting to sneak out to a fancy dress ball when the dean has gone to bed.

Their extravagance is an embarrassment after the good dean pledges £1000 he does not have to restore the spire on his beloved minster.

The dean, with a past a little murkier than his present, has warned his staff about the dangers of gambling and forbidden them to attend the local race meeting.

So with the arrival of his sister, who has a half share in racehorse Dandy Dick, followed by both the horse and its other half owner, and old Oxford chum, Sir Tristram Mardon, turning up after their stables burn down, family life rapidly descends into chaos.

Sir Tristram is played in a larger-than-life,  splendid what-ho, bon homie by Michael Cochrane.

Patricia Hodge as horsey Georgina and Nicholas Le Prevost as the keeping up appearances Dean.

Throw in the Dean medicating the horse against a chill, the devious butler Blore, played with more ham than a Parma deli by John Arthur, attempting to nobble Dandy Dick to give his own tip more chance, and the local constable, Noah Topping, played ominously by Matt Weyland aided by Sir Tristram's man Hatcham, Michael Onslow,  protecting the horse and arresting an interloper then all the elements of farce are thrown in the pot to bubble away.

Helping to confuse matters ever more is Rachel Lumberg who is wonderful as the somewhat dim but wonderfully enthusiastic Hannah Topping, new wife of the insanely jealous Noah and former cook to the Dean.

The sets, by Janet Bird, have a solid feel about them aided by some excellent lighting from Paul Pyant while Christopher Luscombe's direction keeps up a good pace with plenty of laughs and refusing to allow any scene to drag.

There are some modern touches, such as expressing thoughts aloud to the audience end even talking directly to them and although the subject matter and the social mores the plot relies on for its effect are well past an age when an eyebrow might show even the merest lift, there is still enough there to raise laughs particularly from the down to earth, up and at ‘em Georgina and the wordy and unwittingly witty dean.

The production cleverly skirts over the moral dilemmas and embarrassments on show to audiences of the 1880s, playing it for laughs and it works.

As an opener to return the splendid old Brighton theatre to creation rather than just a temporary home for visiting productions this is a decent start which deserves to be a commercial success. To 25-08-12

Roger Clarke

And coming up on the outside . . .

IT'S amazing how good old British humour can withstand the passage of time, and this beautifully acted revival of Sir Arthur Wing Pinero's Victorian farce - written in 1887 - is yet another example.

Staged by Theatre Royal Brighton Productions and featuring an anti-gambling clergyman and a racehorse called Dandy Dick, it is a racing certainty to succeed.

 Why? Well, adapted and directed by Christopher Luscombe, it is packed with really amusing characters who immediately hit it off with the audience - even turning to address the customers at times - and there's a bit of music thrown in, too.

 Set in the morning room of the Deanery at St Marvells, the story focuses on the Very Rev Augustin Jedd's conflict of interests when his horror of gambling comes into conflict with his need to raise £1,000 for the church restoration fund.

 The action moves from a trot to a gallop with the arrival of the Dean's sister, Georgiana, a horsey bundle of fun cleverly played by Patricia Hodge who is half owner of the top racehorse, and Nicholas Le Prevost gives a cracking performance as the clergyman who lands a surplus of trouble.

 Terrific contributions, too, from Florence Andrews and Jennifer Rhodes, the Very Reverend's so sweet daughters, Salome and Sheba, John Arthur (Blore, the butler), Matt Weyland (the aggressively jealous constable Noah Topping), Rachel Lumberg (his wife Hannah), and Michael Cochrane (Sir Tristram Mardon).

 A Lovely piece in the play comes when the daughters sing about their troubled father, spendidly accompanied on the violin by Charles De Bromhead who plays Lt Darbey.

  Dandy Dick runs to 25.08.12

 Paul Marston

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