Lettice and Lovage

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Sewell Barn, Norwich


Sewell Barn, Norwich

Country houses need people - administrators, furniture dusters, brass polishers, tea ladies and, above all, guides. Like Lettice. Except, she is a guide with a difference, rather a big one. Mere facts never satisfy her. She just has to bring history to life, electrifying it with a theatrical imagination.

This huge central role in Rob Morris's fluent production of Peter Schaffer's comedy, is taken by Sally Dixon. She is quite magnificent. Totally dotty, admirably articulate, without one inhibition left, she bestrides the stage like Margaret Rutherford and Joyce Grenfell come again. Voice, the face, the costume, sweeping gestures and eloquent body language all combine in this outstanding interpretation, way over the top and totally under control.

Dott Binns takes the other substantial female role. Staid, older, she has a desk job at the start and from behind it speaks the voice of reason. But then as she tries to scold, she succumbs to the sorcery. The process of her change is slow, even unwilling and she resists the temptation to go where Lettice leads her. But she gives in again and again and forever.

Bob Carter as the cautious solicitor brings a note of common sense but soon he has to play as well.

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So we go from Fustian House to an office in London and a basement flat on through the death of Mary Queen of Scots and the execution of Charles I to end up with a diatribe about the most horrible buildings in modern London. Does that sound serious? It shouldn't. This is the funniest show the Sewell Barn has put on for years.

t Lettice and Lovage continues until February 25. Further details at www.sewellbarn.org

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