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ORIGINALLY performed in 1913, St John Irvine’s Jane Clegg now appears to be the most conventional of plays.
Yet this straightforward tale of a woman realising her power remains an important historical document of a time when the portrayal of female characters in British drama was radically shifting in response to the suffragette movement.
The Finborough Theatre gave the play its first staging since 1944 for the first time in May last year and David Gilmore’s naturalistic production is now available online.
It is another of the classy revivals with which the theatre is associated but, as can sometimes be the case with such endeavours, it is somewhat hampered by a predictable plot.
From the very first scene, in which Henry Clegg’s mother (Maev Alexander) warns his wife that men are nothing more than “guilty sinners,” the road map — with little in the way of revelatory twists or turns — is laid out.
The almost saintly Jane (Alix Dunmore) is treated more like a secretary than a loving partner by her travelling salesman husband, who has few redeeming features.
His multiple misdeeds are rapidly catching up with him and are soon at the front door in the form of bookmaker Mr Munce (Matthew Sim) and his company bookkeeper Mr Morrison (Sidney Livingstone).
The Cleggs seemingly have little room for manoeuvre but when Henry (Brian Martin) plans an escape, Jane takes a stand.
An excellent cast muster all the depth available to them from the text, with Dunmore and Martin capturing the essence of their characters with understated gumption.
All in all, it is a revival probably more suited to those who have a particular interest in the period. But if you’ve exhausted your entertainment options, you could certainly do worse than this noteworthy 90 minutes.
Available until August 5, youtube.com/watch?v=pFdzhKq-X6Y.
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