Quality Street

Three years before he wrote “Peter Pan”, J.M. Barrie had a considerable success in 1901with this whimsical social comedy set around the time of the Napoleonic wars. It hasn’t been seen in London since 1946, and although only a slight work, Louise Hill’s revival proves a charming little gem.

The characters could almost have stepped out of a Jane Austen novel with too many single women and not enough men to go round. Most of these genteel ladies are resigned to being left on the shelf, but it seems as though Phoebe Throssel is on the verge of receiving an “offer” from handsome young physician Valentine Brown – except that instead of proposing, he announces that he’s taken the king’s shilling and is going off to fight.

With half their money gone thanks to an unfortunate investment, Claire Redcliffe’s Phoebe and her older sister Mary open a school, putting all thoughts of romance behind them – until, ten years later, and the war over, old feeling surface once again. But how can an old maid of thirty – her once famous ringlets now tucked away beneath a demure cap, her eyes tired after long hours in the classroom – possibly be attractive anymore?

The answer, it seems, is to pretend to be her non-existent niece, Livvy – who proceeds to entrance all the returning soldiers and confuse her nosy spinster neighbours. Designer Alex Marker does wonders creating the Throssel sisters’ modest dwelling which morphs into a ballroom and back again, and James Russell (who last played an elephant at this address) makes a dashing if rather smug Valentine in this enjoyably whimsical confection.


Finborough, Finborough Road, SW10 9ED
Tube: Earl’s Court Tube
0844 847 1652
Until December 22
£15 (Tuesdays £11)

– Louise Kingsley