Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Return of the Soldier, Jermyn Street Theatre by Sister Morticia

Sister Morticia saw The Return of the Soldier during its West End run in September and had kindly agreed to review this musical.

The Return of the Soldier by Sister Morticia

 Photo Credit: Sister Morticia

Director: Charlotte Westenra
Music by Charles Miller
Book and Lyrics by Tim Sanders
Musical Director: Simon Lambert
Designer: Simon Anthony Wells

The Return of the Soldier, directed by  is a musical based on the novel of the same name by Rebecca WestSet towards the end of the First World War, Margaret, Kitty and Jenny all wait for the return of a man from the war. They think of him, they worry about him, they prepare themselves for his homecoming.

Margaret is a working class woman, married to William, a man who cannot fight as his health is not good enough. Her life is settled, her routine with William is contented, settled, ordinary...but it is Margaret who gets the letter to say that Christopher Baldry has been badly shell shocked, but not injured, and he is being sent home to England.

Her simple, comfortable life is in disarray. This letter is a shell thrown into her ordered, sensible, unremarkable world of daily work and a husband she cares for.  A letter from Christopher Baldry is a cry from the past, an echo from another life she was not destined to live. She plucks up her courage and takes her news to the grand estate of Mrs Kitty Baldry, wife of Christopher, and his cousin Jenny.  Kitty and Jenny receive this news with confusion and distrust.  They cannot understand why a stranger, lower class and in a cheap yellow coat, has been notified that the man that they love and share their lives with is coming home, while they have heard nothing from him.

When Captain Christopher Baldry returns, it becomes clear that shell shock and the horror of war has wiped out, or locked away, his memory of the last six years before the war; Kitty is a stranger to him, a woman he has never met, a woman he cannot understand, cannot even like and cannot comprehend being married to her.

The story is then the difficult relationship between the characters, how they can try to understand each other, tolerate each, learn to know each other again.

Laura Pitt-Pulford is intensely powerful as Margaret, a working class woman torn between her current life and loving husband, and her first love who has somehow returned to her.  Her character comes alive as the show goes on, bringing back the youth and exuberance of first love. She palpably shows her pain as she feels she is betraying William, a man who loves her and trusts her implicitly. Michael Matus perfectly captures William – a man devoted to his wife, He feels that with her he has won a treasure beyond what he could ever hope.  He relies on Margaret for everything; he cannot tie his tie without her, and, as he sings, she is the one who makes sure there are no spiders in his boots.

Zoe Rainey is elegant and beautiful as Kitty Baldry.  She is devastated and lost to find herself forgotten by the man she loves, her soldier, her captain. Her heartbreak turns to anger and bitterness as she tries to come to terms with the consequences of Christopher's shell shock  Her beautiful rendition of No Man's Land brought the house down.

Stewart Clarke is a fine, dashing Captain – strong, straight backed and brave in his uniform, but vulnerable and confused by his mood swings, his weakness, his fears and at a loss to understand how there is a stranger in his home, pretending to be his wife.  He feels the world conspires against him with confusions and puzzles and he perfectly conveys the joy and heartbreak of a man in an impossible situation.  He has a strong, pure voice and a face that shows all emotions.

Michael Matus returns as a vaudevillian doctor, dealing with his own dilemma of successfully curing patients, only to send them back to the Front to fight again and possibly die.

The cast all have incredibly strong singing voices which sound beautiful in harmony together and every word is crystal clear, making the story easy to follow.  The acoustics of such an intimate theatre as Jermyn Street expand the voices to fill up the entire space, and it's extremely affecting, sweeping up the audience in the heart of the action.

The set is perfectly designed by Simon Wells with beautiful attention to detail. One side of the stage is the Baldry estate, all wisteria hanging on trellis and delicate garden furniture, leading across to the house of Margaret and William, where the wisteria becomes a pattern on the wallpaper, and we are inside their tiny kitchen, with cupboards of cooking utensils, pans hanging from beams above and a stove always in use. Even the milk bottle for William to fill up the cat's bowl is a lovely period detail.

All in all a jewel of a musical, with strong songs, great story and a very good cast, in what is a small but perfect venue.

  Photo Credit: Sister Morticia

Sister Morticia
20th September 2014

 I would like to thank Sister Morticia for reviewing this exciting show!

No comments:

Post a Comment