Sporting a wig that – occasionally – reminds one of William Hartnell’s Doctor Who, the glorious Penelope Keith is once more gracing the stage of the Festival Theatre in their revival of Enid Bagnold’s curious The Chalk Garden.
Why curious? Well, it’s a strangely written piece – the language is oddly stylised and the characters are all a little off-the-wall – and virtually plotless, relying instead on an extended metaphor (the garden as both giver of life and bringer of death) and the relationships between the characters.
Performances are good, although Emma Curtis as teenager Laurel is a little too stereotypical and sometimes irritates beyond her remit as the character.
Dame Penelope is – of course – sublime as the eccentric Mrs St Maugham, desperate to keep her granddaughter safe from the clutches of her daughter, but the show belongs to Amanda Root as the mysterious Miss Madrigal, a woman with a history she’s trying to both conceal but work outwards from.
Oliver Ford Davies also gives a very nice turn as the Judge who knows Madrigal’s past and can neither reveal it nor keep it to himself.
It’s undeniably laugh-out-loud funny but curiously unengaging.
A step or two up in quality, however, from the dismal season-opener, Present Laughter.