15 December 2017

The Passing of The Third Floor Back at Finborough Theatre

My first visit to Finborough Theatre was to see something by John Galsworthy, the second to see something by Jerome K. Jerome. There's a theme there.

My knowledge of Jerome K. Jerome went little beyond Three Men in a Boat but that was more than enough to persuade me to part with £18 to see one of his plays.

Being a second visit the logistics were easy; a train from Teddington to Wimbledon, a tube to West Brompton, a short walk to the Finborough Arms (conveniently placed below the theatre), a good pint of beer and a pizza from next door.

The play was set in a run-down boarding house where all conceivable corners were cut, early on the proprietress told a main that the milk could take a little more water. Staying in the boarding house was a motley collection of characters including a young artist, a couple of fraudsters and a heavily over painted middle-aged woman. All of them were struggling a little in life and while none were distraught or desperate none was happy either.

Finally, thanks to the maid taking the initiative in placing an advertisement locally, the room on the third floor was let to a young enigmatic man who quickly charmed the proprietress who was so enthralled with him that she tried to lower the asking price for the rent.

Having gradually met the large cast slowly over half an hour or so we took an unexpectedly early interval. I was so surprised by the timing that I did not leave the theatre, it was too early for another beer.

In the much longer second half the stranger spoke to each of the people in turn. He knew about their pasts, often claiming a previous connection, and also their current aspirations. From this he was able to offer sound advice. He offered it in a calm, measured and yet authoritative manner that the recipient of the advice was compelled to follow it.

The advice worked and they all lived happily ever after. Sort of. It was real life so things were never going to be quite like that. The point was that they were all happier and more comfortable with their situation than they were before. It reminded me a little of the impact that Mary Poppins had on the Banks family in a story that would be told a few decades later.

The Passing of The Third Floor Back oozed goodness thanks to its simple delightful story and the excellent cast that brought all the characters and their foibles firmly to life. I cared about all of them and was uncertain whether to smile or cry at the end.

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