Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Charity that Began at Home.

To The Orange Tree to see a fun filled revival of St John Hankin's Edwardian social satire The Charity that Began at Home directed with mischievous snap by Auriol Smith.

Lady Denison, swayed by the messianic idealism of Mr Hylton, the founder of the Church of Humanity, and supported by her pure of heart daughter Margery has organised a country house party not for people you'd like to ask, but rather for those who'd like to be asked setting the scene for a curious menagerie of pompous bores, vulgar cads, self-obsessed narcissists and terrifying zealots.

If not completely relaxed the weekend seems reasonably under control until Margery, following the doctrine that love can reform anybody, accepts the offer of engagement from army deserter and wastrel Hugh Verreker, throwing her mother's plans for a match with Mr Hylton into disarray.

The rest of the play examines the limits of charity, not quite with Shavian sharpness, but with a fair amount of intelligence and no little humanity and although some of the playing is pedestrian, there are stand out performances from Olivia Morgan as Margery and Oliver Gomm as Hugh.

I've never seen a Hankin play before, but very much enjoyed the well marshaled collection of characters and the clear moral twist at the end, where Verreker realising he can not 'reform' Margery of her faith in him calls off the engagement, so as not to let her down. It is as he rightly suggests, the most honest thing he could do in the circumstances. An optimistic and kindly way to defeat the insufferable idealism of the do-gooders.

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