A Room With A View

Chichester Theatre

The problem with Felicity Kendal's cousin Charlotte in this adaptation of E.M.Forster's biting observation on Edwardian social niceties, is that she is so very difficult not to like.

Instead of the irritable, interfering, prissy guardian of propriety, especially regarding her young relation and sometime charge Lucy Honeychurch, the ageing spinster comes across as slightly humorous and, well, rather lovable. The kind of ageing relative you would relish paying a visit just to tease.

Perhaps that is because, if anything, this adaptation by Simon Reade attempts to place Charlotte too much at the centre of what is at heart a simple tale of two star- crossed lovers: Lucy and the brooding George Emerson.

As the star name in this touring production, a lot is expected of Kendal's ability to hold the stage, not an inconsiderable challenge at Chichester where the expanse of space to fill can be daunting. Indeed, the opening scene of dinner at the Florentine pensione is set so far away from the audience at the rear of the stage that it strains the eyes to take in.

At times the use of staging is clunky and the production doesn't seem sure whether it wishes to be a musical with some of the direction – the first act storm scene for example - rather out of place.

And yet this production cannot be said to fail to capture the essence of Forster's insights into the heavy- handed, claustrophobic social constraints that ruled every day lives and passions of the British middle classes at the turn of the last century.

Laura Coe is extremely good as Lucy, the independent woman waiting to be released from the constraints of both childhood and the expectations of those around her. Tom Morley is the anguished Edward whose passion often gets the better of him.

Jeff Rawle plays George's father, the one- time journalist, suspected socialist, and full-time little league philosopher.

Anyone smirking at the outdated etiquette and prudishness of the Edwardian era need only take in the Chichester audience's reaction to the story's comical male nude bathing scene to realise that not all has been laid bare.


Runs until Saturday, December 3.