Traditions can often have us stuck in patterns that are outdated, and therefore need to be examined and challenged. Marriage a cornerstone of many a society – the ultimate declaration of love and union as well societal status. The concept of divorce heavily frowned upon in particular circles, particularly a century ago, during wartime England. Crafting an observation of the gradual breakdown of an upper class marriage, Somerset Maugham’s The Circle humourously clasps the fallout of this – the ripple effect of this a major societal talking point.
Rooted in the Dorset based country house setting of MP Arnold Champion-Cheney (Pete Ashmore) and his wife Elizabeth Champion-Cheney (Olivia Vinall), The Circle concerns itself with the pragmatic Vs romantic schools of love and societal standing, Arnold and Elizabeth’s marriage functional – ok in Arnold’s eyes, not so ok in Elizabeth’s. Arnold’s mother, Lady Catherine ‘Kitty’ Chsmpion-Cheney (Jane Asher) having left her husband (Arnold’s father) Clive Champion-Cheney (Clive Francis) for once aspiring MP Lord ‘Hughie’ Porteous (Nicholas Le Provost). Businessman Edward ‘Teddie’ Luton (Chirag Benedict Lobo) having captured Arnold’s wife’s affections. As imagined, a chaotic scramble to salvage a marriage, let alone confront the past ensue!
Maugham perfectly instills the proximity of this upper class family and the inability to escape uncomfortable realities. A household rocked by scandal once before in reference to Lady Catherine, now rocked again by an impending divorce, we watch Elizabeth attempt to carve out a life post marriage with a new love – a woman’s standing post divorce and once married commented on and weighing heavy a century on in terms of how far we’ve come from that particular reality. Edward stating that people here in England doing things they don’t want to do because other people expect it of them perfectly picking at societal norms and at the heart of British tradition. Tom Littler directs an entertaining evening, one where the messy tangle of various love lives collide and comically play out. Love is complicated and The Circle understands this fully. The melodramatic tone of the play perfectly placing the show in 20s England and adding to the hilarity of the evening.
Written by Lucy Basaba.
The Circle is currently showing until Saturday 17th June 2023 at the Orange Tree Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…