What a joy to see an old fashioned 'straight' play done with real truth and conviction and traditional staging. London Wall, which is set in a solicitor’s office in 1931 (but written later) explores the predicament of working women whose only real future was marriage. Revived at Finborough and transferred to St James Theatre in 2013, John Van Druten’s fine play had otherwise languished unstaged for eighty years. It now seems to be firmly back on the map and it’s a good choice for a drama school because it has three very meaty female roles (and two more minor ones) and four interesting male ones.
Blanche Janus, a woman of 35 whose chances of marriage slide away during the action is played by the outstandingly strong LJ Reeves. Tall and slender with masses of stage presence Reeves is variously imperious, vulnerable, distressed and very good at conveying complex distress with the tiniest of visual signs. Her acting is, as it were, invisible but we are totally convinced by her character. Susannah Edgley makes a good job of the younger typist Pat trying to hang on to her virtue and integrity despite the relentless attentions of the revolting, self-satisfied predatory (Ed Bailey complete with in-period, carefully arranged, slicked back wavy hair). Andrew Candish is impressive as the senior solicitor disciplining his employees and he thoughtfully makes the character, who is far from unkind, multi-dimensional. I also enjoyed Maggastina Sigurdardottir’s work as the eccentric client who, fairly predictably leaves Pat a legacy and there’s a lovely performance – very funny in his gaucheness – from Will Gillham.
Philip Dart’s intelligent direction seems to have given the whole cast – a mixture of students from Drama Studio’s one year and two year courses now ready to move into the industry – plenty of scope to show what they can do. And Granville Sexton’s neat set which gives us two different office rooms by turning a flat and moving a couple of pieces of furniture is effective. Bravo to Sarah Andrews for the elegant and attractive costumes too.