Theatre Review: Where Angels Fear to Tread

  • Where Angels Fear to Tread
  • Written by E. M. Forster, adapted for the stage by Elizabeth Hart
  • Director: Jim Searle, Assistant Director: Maria Micallef
  • Guild Theatre, Rockdale, August 9 - 31

When asked if he thought Princess Diana had changed the Royals, Tony Blair replied that she had taught the Brits a new way to be British.

Once characterised by their sense of duty, decorum, and reserve, the outpouring of grief over her death marked a change in the way Brits saw themselves.

In 1906, Edwardian England, Diana would not be born for another 55 years.

The national identity, in the view of E. M. Forster, was in need of an emotional awakening from its stultifying adherence to keeping up appearances with proper, protestant reserve.

In The Guild Theatre's current production of his Where Angel's Fear to Tread, he tells the story of a well-to-do British family who are thrown into a lather not when widowed daughter-in-law, Lilia, dies, but when her daughter, Irma Herriton (Kassandra Micallef) realises that the family has kept her from knowing her baby brother.

Lilia had committed the mortifying sin of marrying a Catholic, Italian native. Her friend Caroline (Jessica Wake) tells the family that she intends to go to Italy and bring the baby back.

She wrongly surmises that the father, Gino (Douglas Spafford) couldn't care for it. Mrs Herriton (Yolanda Regueira) the babe's grandmother, is provoked into having the babe fetched to England not to lose face with society.

Daughter Harriet (Lani Crooks) staunchly believes that the babe cannot be deprived of a proper English upbringing. She is fanatical on the point. Son, Phillip (Tye Byrnes) is sent with Harriet to accomplish the task.

The British psyche, obsessed with being correct, has put Phillip into limbo. He may have an opinion, he may make astute observations but he's impotent. He is afraid to be himself. In Italy, when faced with the passionate, forthright nature of the babe's father, he gathers courage to act according to his conscience and to break the bonds that his mother and living a proper British like have on him.

What happens to the babe is the impetus for the emotional awakening that Forster called for in 1906, but that Britain would eventually experience with the life of Princess Diana.

The Guild Theatre's is an Edwardian period piece, a tragi-comedy of manners where droll wit rewards the attentive ear.

Jim Searle's set is sumptuous - three different locales defined on the one playing area with the aid of a staircase and raised platform. The interiors of an English sitting room and Italian hotel are gorgeously recreated.

The costumes are beautiful. Each actor is decked out with historical authenticity. Jessica Wake particularly looks like she walked out of an Edwardian postcard and carries herself with aplomb. Child actress Kassandra Micallef carried her sizable role well.

There are many strong performances by the cast.

Lani Crooks', prim Harriet delights with her nave belief in British supremacy. She encapsulates Harriet's energy and passion with the plasticity of her facial expressions. Tye Byrnes' Phillip is suitably droll. Douglas Spafford bubbles with Italian passion and exuberance.

Tragi-comedy can be difficult to pull off, but the interactions between these four mains rolls.

  • Bookings: 9520 7364