Fallen Angels

Date 18th February 2022
Society St John's Players
Venue Townley Hall, Fulbourn
Type of Production Play
Director Martin Hunt and Claire Milner
Musical Director N/A
Choreographer N/A
Written By Noel Coward

Report

Author: Julie Petrucci

Written in 1925, Fallen Angels is one of Coward’s lesser known plays which is probably why it is a new one on me. Similar to Hay Fever the play is very much a comedy of manners among the “upper crust” society in early 20th Century England.  At its opening the central theme of two wives admitting to premarital sex and contemplating adultery caused shock and outrage with the critics – which of course made it very popular with audiences.  For today’s audience the shock factor is missing as times have changed but the comedy value has been left entirely intact. 

The play, set in the 1920s, takes place in one room of Julia and Fred’s flat in London. Julia’s best friend, Jane comes around in a flap after their husbands leave for the weekend; both girls have received a postcard from an old flame (a Frenchman) stating his intention to visit. What ensues is humorous and cringe-worthy as the girls – equally terrified and excited at the prospect – drink themselves into a stupor and simultaneously a rage, and both their friendship and marriages are put to the test. 

The set was stunning and certainly depicted a 1920s room.  Furnishings and properties, including a baby grand, were excellent although maybe a smaller dining table would have helped movement round the stage at times.  Lighting was good with the inference of night falling seen through the bow-window.  Sound effects were also good and the cues spot on, particularly the piano playing. Maybe a background of distant traffic at times would have made the drawing up of taxis less sudden, but that is just a nit picking comment.  Julia and Jane’s costumes were nicely in period and their evening attire enviable.

This is definitely the women’s play.  As the two protagonists, Poppy Saunders (Julia) and Olive Sparrow (Jane) were superb, both perfectly cast and they made their characters shine. Two excellent and very believable performances. 

Rebecca Hawker’s characterisation of the obviously over-qualified servant Saunders was splendid. One of those know-all individuals who are so very annoying.  Saunders’ cleverly choreographed scene change was met with deserved applause. 

Huw Davies (Fred) and Abishek Reddy (Willy) played the befuddled husbands – amiable, but always ignorant of what their wives are, and have been, up to. Both made the best they could of their brief appearances. The girl’s old flame Maurice Duclos (played by Nick Gulvin whose French accent stayed just the right side of comedic), doesn’t actually appear until very late in the second half and he’s had such a build-up in Jane and Julia’s imaginations—and, by this time, the audience’s—that there’s no way, when he finally puts in an appearance, that he could completely satisfy their, or our, expectations. 

It is not an easy play to put on in 2022, containing lengthy scenes with much dialogue and few entrances and exits.  However, Directors Martin Hunt and Claire Milner did a great job, managing to catch the style well and bring out the humour of the piece, proving Coward’s witty dialogue still holds good. The play may be over 100 years old but it was, once again, an audience pleaser from St John’s Players.