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.