26 February 2015

The Last of the De Mullins at Jermyn Street Theatre was powerful and charming too

I had originally planned to see The Last of the De Mullins on 4 February and I had a ticket for that evening ready to use but work kept me in Reading until around 11pm which was just a little too late for the theatre. Work were reasonable and let me claim back the money for the unused ticket but that still left the problem of finding the time to actually see the play.

The solution came with the addition of a Thursday matinee performance just a few days before the end of the run. Even that was not straightforward and I ended up on the day waiting for the production team to return one of their complimentary tickets, which they did at lunchtime, just a couple of hours before the sold out show started.

In anticipation of this I had come into the Central London office that day and was able to get to Jermyn Street for the 3:30pm start. I walked all the way from Kings Cross and went via Liberty to collect some furnishing fabric that I had ordered. It may have been a hastily rescheduled plan but it came together nicely.

Claiming the last seat in the house meant that I was not in the front row, for the first time I believe. Instead I was in the second (back) row of the odd little row of seats in the back-left corner as viewed from the stage. This was almost a bar stool type seat to allow people there to look over the heads of those in front. I was grateful for any seat that I could get but this one was actually quite good and I had a clear view of the stage.

The Last of the De Mullins was a period piece from 1908 and took as its theme the then growing independence of women who had been used to doing whatever their fathers told them to do, including who to marry.

Janet had left the comfortable family home a few years ago having become pregnant outside of marriage by a man she would not reveal. The split between her and her family was very deep but not quite completely broken and she came back, at her mother's request, when her father was very ill.

The relationships remained very frosty but there was some sign that time had healed some wounds. The father was especially pleased to see Janet's son, now eight years old. The boy had grown up well and the father lacked an heir.

Complications came from Janet's sister who was less forgiving and a chance encounter with the boy's father who was about to be married.

The play focused on the cosy countryside life and the role that Janet could play in it if only she would agree to move back and carry on as before. The father thought that this was the obvious thing to do, Janet had other ideas.

The many relationships involved made this a charming story and it could have ended sweetly if not for the powerful independence of Janet, masterfully played by Charlotte Powell (who I had also liked in The Duchess of Malfi at the Southwark Playhouse). In a play about personal relationships the acting really mattered and the cast were strong throughout.

I was also delighted to discover that the play was set in Dorset. I think the actual village was fictional but Weymouth got lots of mentions and some of the key historical events had happened there.

The Last of the De Mullins easily managed to defy its considerable years and it had both a good story to tell and an important message to give.

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