14 January 2009

Mary Goes First at the Orange Tree

The Orange Tree's seasonal comedy (by that I mean it's season for a comedy, not that the play is seasonal) if Mary Goes First, points fun at social rivalries in Edwardian England.

Mary goes first because she leads the local society, which includes being lead in to dinner first by the host.

All this changes when one of the other society ladies gets elevated by her husband's knighthood. As Lady Bodsworth she triumphs in her new position by chairing committees and frequently mentioning invitations to the local aristocracy.

Mary does not take this well and responds initially with snide comments and then with a plan to recover the situation.

This involves her husband changing parties, becoming the local MP and making a suitable donation to the party to justify a baronacy. The plan works and Mary goes first again. This causes some confusion at the end as it is not sure which lady should be led in to dinner first and Mary seizes the initiative and the two ladies go in together.

The plot is slight but is a sufficient framework for the comedy that grows from the observation of the pathetic rules that govern society. It's a comedy of manners and characters that happens to throw a few barbs at politicians too.

The play is mostly about Mary, what she thinks, what she says and what she does, and Susie Trayling carries the role with aplomb.

Mary Goes First is a full package that sparkles, delights, amuses and entertains throughout.

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