Theatre Review: London Wall @ Finborough Theatre

Maia Alexander and Cara Theobold.Images by Phillip Gammon.

This is the first London production of London Wall for 80 years. There may be a reason. The play is a satirical look at women in the ’30s workplace, which just may cast a mocking eye over anyone that thinks equality at work is now a reality.

Pat is the 19-year-old newcomer who is torn between her penniless apathetic sweetheart and a lecherous but wealthy senior colleague. Her concerned matriarchal co-worker Miss Janus attempts to warn her off the caddish lawyer, but is distracted by her own failing attempts to get married, at the ripe old age of 35. Some witty banter is peppered by serious notes on poverty and sexual harassment, but no matter how well-meaning this resurrection, as a piece of theatre, it’s flawed.

There are more entrances and exits than in a Shakespearean battle scene — and yet it’s not a farce. The actors clumsily bump into each other as they squeeze through the doors, failing to acknowledge each other as they do so, which makes the audience think they should be looking away at this point. But it happens again and again. Actors enter to make one statement, then leave through the left door, while we wait patiently for them to come back with a notepad or some-such, then exit through the right door. It’s beyond pointless. A glance through the playscript tells us this is how it is (badly) written, but the director should take responsibility for changing that, or else making something more of it.

Secondly, interaction between characters is almost always between two people, despite the sizeable cast. A short dialogue achieves its aim, one actor leaves, another enters, then we begin again. There’s no real understanding of stage dynamics, or how to write a basic scene at work here. It’s a monotonous effort that leaves you wanting to pull teeth.

None of this is the fault of the actors, who try their best to wring comedy and pathos from their respective roles, although it has to be said that because they don’t know what kind of play this is, some go for understated while their counterparts might be gurning. In the words of a misogynist from the ’30s: “yes, well done dear, now get back to the embroidery”.

London Wall runs at Finborough Theatre until Saturday 23 February 2013. Show times are Tuesday-Sunday 7:30pm, 3pm matinees. Tickets are £10.

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  • Theatrewoman

    Well Mr Macavoy – it’s you that needs to go back to the embroidery – as your skills as a theatre critic are somewhat under-developed. In LONDON WALL no-one is wringing either comedy or pathos – everything is truthfully and actually very skilfully played and as to your apparently terminal irritation with the doorways – the truth is that the set is a miracle in the tiny Finborough space and the greater truth is you won’t make a reputation as a critic with such a careless and superficial approach. Fortunately this isn’t shared by the company or production team of LONDON WALL. No I’m not the director or anyone’s mother. I just saw the play.

  • doorhandle

    [Entrance Door Right]
    Well Theatrewoman, I don’t think there is anything superficial about Mr Macavoy’s review if you care to read it, I also don’t see him anywhere attacking the set in itself … for a small space it is indeed remarkable. I also saw said play and practically the every scene is joined together by an Entrance or Exit … hold on whilst I send an email
    [Exit Door Left]
    Theatrewoman ponders silently
    [Entrance Door Left]
    So yes as I was saying, the set is indeed remarkable but the direction was lazy
    [Exit Door Right, SLAMS DOOR]

  • bookworm52

    What a childish review! MacAvoy obviously has no idea about the physical workings and dynamics of a busy office so truthfully created in the production – perhaps because he is writes this alone, in his dressing gown, from his bedroom. My husband and I saw this play last week and found it to be a sharp, witty and engrossing insight into the social politics of the era. The idea of glass ceiling wages for women explored in the piece is sadly still very relevant today. Interesting that this reviewer uses a thinly veiled misogynistic phrase to end his ‘point’. You didn’t enjoy it because you don’t understand it, so your ‘thoughts’ are superficial and you slam the door shut on it like a moody teenager. How predictable, dear.