Let us get the negatives out of the way first. Please be assured, it does get better. Firstly, the production does not serve the actors well by having very clunky and long scene changes. Far too often the action is brought to a halt to allow for yet another rearrangement of chairs. A little music might have helped the uneasy restlessness that settled on the audience with each pause. The script does occasionally become rather self-indulgent in demonstrating the detailed research that has clearly been done. There is a little too much telling and not enough showing. I was a little bemused by the lack of wigs in the production. I know they are an additional expense but the late 18th Century is a period known for the ostentatious headgear favoured by both sexes. The effect of the sumptuous costumes (and they are stunning) was somewhat diminished by this lack.
Music was used well before the play started and again during the interval but when it was employed in the course of the action at the end of the first act, it was anachronistic and sung in English. A minor point - but one that rather went against the atmosphere that had been created. Having said all this, it is by no means an unenjoyable evening in the theatre.
There are some excellent performances – Ellen Buddle has a wonderful stillness as the governess, Gareth Russell brings wit and flair to his role and Chelsea Walker is wonderfully over the top. All of the cast are committed to the text and bring out the nuances that are there. It is a very wordy script and they cope well with the blend of modern idiom and period detail.
There are some well defined relationships backed up with carefully crafted dialogue and for that Mr Russell must be congratulated. This is the second incarnation of his script to be staged at the OFS and, whilst it is not perfect, it certainly shows promise and a passion for his subject matter. I suspect he will return to the text in the future and it will take on new elements and be stronger for it.
It is a production that will tighten up as the performances progress and the actors will find more depth to their characters. It provides an insight into a world that we are often told to dismiss as indulgent and selfish. It is certainly worthy of your attention.