Wilde times for St Albans’ Company of Ten

Lord Arthur Savile's Crime

Lord Arthur Savile's Crime - Credit: Archant

A slick and enjoyable production is getting the new Company of Ten season underway at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

There is an argument that you can’t go far wrong with Oscar Wilde but as Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime is adapted from one of Wilde’s short stories by Trevor Baxter, it is not strictly the great writer’s words.

But this is a play well worth seeing for its comedy value alone – in parts it is very amusing even though it has been ‘moved’ from the late 1800s when Wilde wrote it to the 1920s.

The time switch works well on the whole and a reference to unreliable trains certainly brought rueful agreement from some members of Saturday night’s audience.

Director Lee Harris is clearly entranced by the play – and rightly so. His direction is tight and brings out the comedy of Lord Arthur’s belief that what a chiromancer tells him is written in his palm must be correct, leading him to believe that it is only a matter of time before he commits a murder.

Lee’s brainchild, a revolving stage did, as promised, results in fewer black-robed figures moving props around between scenes and would be a welcome addition to forthcoming productions where possible.

Gareth Beavis as Lord Arthur is a revelation – a new face to the Company of Ten but one we will surely see more of. His timing is impeccable and as the simple-minded and naive toff, he is the glue that holds the play together.

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Far and away the funniest scene involves Lord Arthur and his uncle The Dean of Chichester – a brilliantly comic performance from Graham Boon – as his nephew attempts to present him with a new timepiece for his collection which should be more of an explosive gift than it actually is.

Company of Ten stalwart Lester J Adams is a safe pair of hands as the chiromancer Septimus Podgers and it is a pity that more is not seen of Grace Vance as Lord Arthur’s fiancee Sybil Merton because the two of them are very good together.

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime runs until this Saturday and tickets are available from www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.