views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Young Visiters
Tabard Theatre
4th March 2016


They say if it ain't broke don't fix it, but Rough Haired Pointer have ignored that rule in revisiting previous hit The Young Visiters, an adaptation of Daisy Ashford's childhood opus. In the then nine-year-old's novella, Mr Salteena (Jake Curran), a man who is "parshial [sic] to ladies if they are nice" tries to win the heart of Ethel Monticue (Marianne Chase) by attempting to improve his social standing. However, in chasing a higher class, Mr Salteena unwittingly allows old friend Bernard Clark (Geordie Wright) to chase the object of his affections. The Young Visiters is a tightly-paced farce about love, social status and endings, although not all of the fairytale variety.

Geordie Wright and Marianne Chase as Bernard Clark and Ethel Monticue

Photography proved by the Tabard Theatre

Nearly three years on from the original run, director Mary Franklin has managed to add some more sparkle (both metaphorical and literal and both delighting the audience). She continues to faithfully draw from Ashford's original text, whilst making the unintentional humour in the young author's writing far more deliberate with mere subtleties of tone and gesture. If you read the novella, you can see just how respectful Franklin has been to the piece, yet it isn't half as funny without her magic. The start of chapter two with Mr Salteena not having breakfast for example sticks to the original dialogue, yet is deliciously funny due to Franklin's cues. We frequently feel sorry for Mr Salteena who is only ever trying, but here we also feel a twinge of sympathy for Curran, the actor himself.

Although Chase reprises the role of Ethel Monticue, Rough Haired Pointer associates Curran and Wright step into the shoes of Ethel's suitors, Mr Salteena and Bernard Clark. Both are excellent actors in their own right, but the on-stage dynamic they've built up in recent years means casting them together as love rivals is a real hoot to watch. Ethel's rejection of Mr Salteena and her passionate enthusiasm for Bernard Clark has us howling with laughter and at other times, audibly sympathising with the downhearted would-be lord. We do love an underdog and Mr Salteena is certainly that. As the two gentlemen battle for the affections of Chase's character, Curran and Wright clearly have a lot of fun. It's a wonder that no one ever corpses on stage.

Jordan Mallory-Skinner plays lots of bit parts, from Mr Salteena's house maid, Rosalind, to Edward Procurio, the groom of chambers, wrestling this part away from Leo Marcus Wan who simply owned the role in the 2013 run. Mallory-Skinner proves no matter how high the standard, anything anyone else can do, he can do better. He's also responsible for the music in this production, which ranges from jubilant to downright creepy. What I've come to realise over the years and what this production in particular showcases, is that Mallory-Skinner is somewhat of an interdisciplinary chameleon, drawing on whichever skills of his are required in any given scene, be those acting, singing or playing an instrument. Whilst he makes an excellent leading man (point made by The Boy Who Cried), he doesn't need to be in the spotlight all the time to make himself invaluable to a show's success. Although he isn't a returning member of cast, it's now difficult to imagine The Young Visiters quite working as well without Mallory-Skinner running around the stage.

Jake Curran and Andrew Brock as Mr Salteena and Minnit

Photography proved by the Tabard Theatre

Able support too is given by Andrew Brock as the overblown Lord Clincham and hard done by Minnit the butler, and by Sophie Crawford as the narrator. Crawford wanders in and out of foreground, guiding us through the story and at times, almost becoming part of the scenery in between lines. Like Mallory-Skinner, she doesn't alway have to speak to bring something to the scene, her presence frequently is enough. A special mention goes to Sophia Baggott who provides the charming vocals for the young Daisy Ashford which bookend the piece. As a pupil in Year 4, it just goes to show that Rough Haired Pointed really do round up the freshest of fresh talent.

Designers Carin Nakanishi and Christopher Hone take the protagonists and the set and make them the stuff that little girls' imaginations are made of. Ethel Monticue has a deliberately obvious blonde wig of tight ringlets, the kind that real life rarely affords women but drawings by nine-year-olds happily grant. Mr Salteena's clothing for the levee is even more childlike in its design. The swathes of patterned curtains which make up the background and wings immediately set the piece towards the late 19th Century. They also look delightfully comforting in what I can only describe as a Cath Kidson-esque way. Looking at the very busy stage, you want to like this show before it even starts.

Ten thousand thanks to the company for reviving this piece of theirs and bringing it to the Tabard Theatre. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser which will have you laughing so much your sides hurt, The Young Visiters has grown up, but nonetheless retains all of its youthful whimsy.

The Young Visiters opened on 1st March and runs until 26th March 2016 at the Tabard Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Turnham Green (District, Piccadilly)

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