Heartbreak House at Chichester Festival Theatre

The former H&E King sweet shop in Albert Road

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Shaw’s little-performed work of 1919 provides a thought provoking evening with an incongruously explosive ending.

Set in a country house as World War I looms large, this production has been reworked into two acts rather than the usual three.

The play consists of a series of scenes where various permutations of the cast come together and have wordy and witty debates about themselves, marriage, love, the soul and other big subjects.

These self-indulgent characters all have something to recommend them – and those you start hating can turn your opinion around in the space of a scene or a speech.

The dialogue may require the attention and concentration of the audience, but the actors make it easy to listen. There is not one weak link amongst them – all are charming and breathe life into what could become simply proselytising ciphers for Shaw’s ideas.

Emma Fielding is effortlessly charismatic, Ronald Pickup charmingly baffled and wistful and Jo Stone-Fewings is a hilariously petulant lover. But Derek Jacobi provides the most endearing and amusing – gifted as he is with the best lines as he pops in and out of the room.

EMILY ANGUS