20 September 2013

Springs Eternal at the Orange Tree

The new season at the Orange Tree started with another trip to the world of Susan Glaspell with Springs Eternal.

There is a story that I do not know here as she was a significant playwright yet this was the world premier of her last play. It was written in 1943 which is when it is set.

America is at war and the stark reality of that sits behind some complex relationships. At the centre of these is Owen, played magnificently by Stuart Fox an Orange Tree regular, with his current and previous wife (who flirts with him), his ex-wife's new husband (who is eloping with a young girl) and Owen's son who is a Conscientious Objector much to his father's shame.

Having set the situation and introduced the characters the play explores the beliefs and feelings of each of them.

It does this at some length and that means some long unnatural speeches by one of the characters while the others just watch.

It is a little static at times, and is never very active, but there is enough in the words and the way that they are delivered by the cast to maintain interest. I only noticed a couple of the audience asleep but that always happens at the Orange Tree and is more a comment on the demographic of the audience than of the play.

In those many words we are given several perspectives on the (then) modern world and how it was changing. Four of the characters are middle-aged, three are young with one in the army and another an objector, and one is elderly (the housekeeper). This gives us views from different ages, genders, politics and classes and makes their conversations confrontational and interesting.

Springs Eternal is a thoughtful play that works well in the round as we are almost in the room with the conversations rather than watching them from distant stalls. It is also the sort of play that the Orange Tree has built its enviable reputation on and this is a worthy addition.

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