NODA Review: Laburnum Grove

Sleaford Little Theatre

Reviewed By: Peter Breach
Producer/Director: Hilary Shields

Although not so frequently performed or well-known as ‘An Inspector Calls’, this play, written in 1933 by J.B.Priestly, is a social commentary focussing on the attitudes of greed, dishonesty and criminality among the middle class residents of suburbia and their attempts to secrete them under a veneer of respectability. George Radfern (played by Paul Sproxton) appears to be a pillar of the community in the newly established North London suburb of Shooters Green where he lives with his wife Dorothy (played by Pamela Edwards) who is loyal and supportive. George has worked hard to survive the economic recession and is proud of his achievements, though his daughter Elsie (played by Emma Albuixech) sees things differently. Elsie and her intended, Harold (played by Andy Canadine) are wanting George to provide the capital for the purchase of a second-hand car business and at the same time George’s in-laws, Lucy and Bernard Baxley (played by Helen Nicholson and Tony Gordon) want a loan from him to help purchase an office supplies firm. In his deliberations on these requests for financial assistance, George explains that his source of income for the last four years has been obtained by fraud and having identified the problem of too little cash being available in the market place, he has solved this problem by producing his own. This disclosure of criminal activity prompts the applicants to shun George, no longer wishing to associate with him. Dorothy then discloses it was George’s little joke, which results in the applications being renewed - however subsequent visits from Inspector Stack (played by David Malkin) and Sergeant Morris (played by Gary Goodge) bring about further changes of mind. The audience is left to decide the outcome of ambivalent attitudes and fickle opinion. This performance took place on a well- constructed set which was most appropriately furnished. The costumes and hair styles were carefully selected and commensurate with the period. Sensitively directed by Hilary Shields, with very good characterisation from the cast, this production delivered first class entertainment. Good to see Jeff Hemsley (as Joe Fletton) making his return to the stage after recovering from a long illness. Well done!