Never heard of Sutton Vane? Neither had I, and although he hardly ranks among the greats, this post-World War I playwright who died almost half a century ago had an unexpected hit with this fantasy drama both here and on Broadway in the early 1920’s.
Set in the smoking room aboard an ocean liner (a stunning wraparound art deco design courtesy of Alex Marker who delivers the goods time and again in this tiny space) it brings together a clutch of socially diverse characters, none of whom seems too sure of why they’re there or where exactly they’re headed.
There’s a nervous young woman clinging to her protective partner, an upper-class loud mouth downing whisky after whisky, an unbearably snobbish double-barrelled wife on her way (or so she thinks) to join her husband and refusing to share space with a humble charlady. An apologetic clergyman and a blustering businessman complete the passenger list tended by Scrubby, the quietly efficient non-committal steward.
There’s no doubt the play has dated, but Louise Hill’s spot-on, well-acted revival is unquestionably compelling, liberally sprinkled with comic dialogue to leaven the moral message of Vane’s supernatural thriller.
Finborough, Finborough Road, SW10 9ED
Tube: Earl’s Court
until 25th February
– Louise Kingsley