Published in 1910, in the midst of the suffragette movement, J.M. Barrie’s The Twelve Pound Look, is an astonishingly relevant, early feminist drama, rightly regarded as one of the most perfect examples of a one-act play in contemporary drama.
Rapture Theatre are to be lauded for their decision to stage the play as part of their inaugural Rapture Bites lunchtime classics, theatre season, which is being presented here at East Kilbride Arts Centre and in slightly different forms at: The Byre Theatre, St. Andrews; Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock; Eastgate Theatre, Peebles; Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkaldy; Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine and CatStrand, New Galloway. The afternoon includes a light lunch, tea, coffee or soft drink as well as a top-quality play from Scotland’s premier touring theatre company.
Harry Sims is the classic example of a man of his time: a pompous, upper class, status-obsessed chauvinist. On the eve of his Knighthood, Harry has enlisted the help of his simpering, supportive, younger, second ‘trophy’ wife to help him practise for the ceremony. Such is his blind self-belief, that he hires a secretary from an agency to respond to the avalanche of correspondence that he expects on the announcement of his award. The secretary turns out to be Kate, the first Mrs. Sims who left him unceremoniously in the middle of the night years before, leaving behind only a note. Harry knows no reason why any sane woman would leave him. The first Mrs. Sims eloquently avails him of the precise reasons why and how she came to secure her freedom.
That such serious subject matter is doused in such humour, shows the adroitness of Barrie. The script is sharp and astute and exquisitely written. While on the surface it all seems like a perfectly palatable piece of fluff for an Edwardian audience, it carries a much deeper message. Who knew that Barrie was such a supporter of the equality of the sexes?
Much of the success of the production is the clarity of direction of Michael Emans and the attractive yet uncomplicated production design, but it is the central performance of Julia Watson as Kate that seals the deal as a polished jewel of a production. Watson is captivating, the elegant fluency and calm assurance with which she skilfully takes Harry down more than a peg or two, is an utter delight to witness.
Rapture Bites, is a welcome addition to the lunchtime theatre movement and with quality such as this, an entertaining time seems assured.
Next up in the series is Terrence Rattigan’s classic The Browning Version on 10th March and Harold Pinter’s A Kind of Alaska on 31 March.
*Please note that this writer has no affiliations with the venues, playwrights or theatre companies whose productions are reviewed on the blog.