The Philadelphia Story, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Affluence seems to have little mark on a dysfunctional group of characters that even on the eve of a society wedding appears content with some pretty shabby furniture.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Philadelphia — the city of brotherly love. You might doubt it until the very end of Philip Barry's social comedy that dates from 1939.

The family presents the sort of family that lives in a mansion with a swimming pool and a butler called Thomas.

Affluence seems to have little mark on a dysfunctional group of characters that even on the eve of a society wedding appears content with some pretty shabby furniture.

Feelings soon flare, in strident tones and approximate accents, while the intrusive Press makes it usual tactless contributions to the build up of tensions. An all-too-American mother (Oonagh Segrave-Daly) tries to ice things over; Neville Miller and Geoffrey Hedger represent an older generation with practice skill, and Laura Watlin, as Dinah, strikes the youthful note.

With this support, Tracy, played by Lucy Lott, sets the tone. She has seen it all, does not expect too much and seems to know how to take her chances without risking the outcome. Voices are raised, hopes are dashed, only to be reconstructed in the all singing and dancing finale in which even the lugubrious George (Iain Roden) is allowed his part.

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The audience responds with great good humour to Peter Beck's production of this classic demonstration of the dogged American refusal to be downhearted but found its true home in Tinsel Town.

t The Philadelphia Story continues at the Maddermarket Theatre until August 3. Box office: 01603 620917

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