It might seem unfair to pick on such a tiny glitch, but it mirrored exactly the problem with the production as a whole – a brave attempt at a rather difficult play marred by lack of attention to theatrical detail. Or, indeed, any form of theatricality at all.
Of course this is partially a problem of the work itself – static, wordy and occupying an intriguing but uncomfortable no-mans-land between drawing room comedy and surreal religious allegory, it’s easy to see why it isn’t often performed. Luckily the allegory is pretty moving and the wordiness is provided by TS Eliot, which means that you could probably get away without dressing the set or the cast at all and just have everyone stand at the front of the stage and recite their lines
It’s unfair to say that this might as well have been the case but everyone seemed, to a greater or lesser extent, to have little thought for where their characters should be or what they should be doing. It’s strange that the director himself, Will Cudmore, was least guilty of this – as the prissy and feeble Edward Chamberlayne he appeared to jerk and squirm convincingly in his own skin.
Perhaps he should have tried harder to communicate what he was doing to some of the other cast members. Peter Tilley pretty much nailed the sinister gravity of psychiatrist-guru Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly and Lucy Jackson gave a comic and malevolent turn as Julia Shuttlethwaite, but the rest of the cast often didn’t so much act as deliver their lines, neatly packaged and carefully (if occasionally a little too quickly) pronounced.
Hence the problem with the shoes that weren’t quite right, the telephone that wouldn’t ring properly, the obviously plastic champagne glasses – with a little less reverence for text and period detail, and a little more directorial energy and innovation such minor concerns might have been forgivable. Here, they served as tiny but continual reminders of the general lack of stagecraft on display.