Review: Black Chiffon
Ian Kelly (Robert) and Abigail Cruttenden (Alicia) - photo by Mark Douet
Cast and creatives
Alicia - Abigail Cruttenden
Robert - Ian Kelly
Dr Hawkins - Nicholas Murchie
Nannie - Yvonne Newman
Roy - Jack Staddon
Thea - Eva Feiler
Louise - Jemima Watling
Mrs Alicia Christie maintains a beautiful home, with a clever husband and devoted children.
This surely makes her an upstanding society woman ...
What would you do to protect your family? Would you lie?
Would you pretend to be a completely different person to the one everyone knows?
Would you forsake all your beliefs?
Would you go to jail?
One woman. One crime. One decision.
This production poses a significant question about revivals - specifically, whether a play written 7 decades ago, born of a society with very different social mores, can still provide satisfying drama together with some relevance to the issues we face in our own lives today.
First performed and set in 1949 - in a society struggling with the harsh realities of post-war life - Black Chiffon describes the inner workings of a comfortably-off family, the Christies.
Son Roy (Jack Staddon) is days away from being married to fiancé Louise (Jemima Watling).
Though the upcoming nuptials should herald a period of happiness for the family and arrangements seem well in-hand, unseen psychological pressure on mother Alicia (Abigail Cruttenden) suddenly forces her to act in an unexpected way, totally out of character, exposing her to the wrath of the law.
Faced with shaming her family, and considering effects she envisages being visited on all members of it, Alicia has to confront an unenviable dilemma.
Though the Christies seem well-off and well-adjusted, Alicia has endured years of friction between son Roy and his rather stiff, inflexible father (played by Ian Kelly) which has led to mother and son being "locked together emotionally".
Black Chiffon, then, is a kind of psychological family drama describing issues that still invade our modern lives.
Beth Colley's intensely thoughtful and evocative set design manages to effect a layered construct that delivers far more than might appear at first glance, significantly enriching the atmosphere of the action and dialogue.
Since we walk through the doors of the drawing room where all the action takes place, members of the the audience find themselves flies on the wall in the intimacy of this family space.
Though the room boasts the material comforts of the well-to-do, it simultaneously embodies the gloomy perspective of the post-war years and, moreover, suggests an air of emotional vacancy - that something is absent in this supposedly happy family.
Abigail Cruttenden (Alicia) - photo by Mark Douet
Abigail Cruttenden's performance as Alicia is simply superb.
A flawless potrayal, there's one extraordinary moment when she delivers a 'look' that just speaks volumes - a touch of genius from a very fine actor.
She's well-supported by Ian Kelly as the rather frosty and brusque husband Robert, whose jealousy of his son drives his wife into a state of emotional turmoil.
And there's commendable and convincing work from the remainder of the cast under the skilful and highly proficient direction of Clive Brill.
Playwright Lesley Storm manages to steer us to a sense of hope come the final curtain so that the emotional strain of the drama is not punctuated by complete disaster or total negativity.
And the story is significant in itself, describing a brave and determined female character who sacrifices her social standing and personal comfort to protect her family.
Premiering at Frinton Summer Theatre back in August, this production offers a rare chance to see a an excellent revival of a well-constructed drama which ably demonstrates that plays from the dim and distant past can prove amply relevant and rewarding.
Fine ensemble acting - cemented by a powerful central performance - make for a dramatically engrossing and moving drama.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Park Theatre
Our show listing for Black Chiffon
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