REVIEW: The Mysterious Mr Love, Arundel Players, The Priory Playhouse

Loving them and leaving them is George Love’s philosophy as he goes through life with a trail of broken hearts in his wake.

The aptly-named serial conman of the Edwardian era selects his victims with care, choosing vulnerable women who are all too ready to be taken in by his improbable tales of a life in the diplomatic corps which has taken him all over the world, missing with the great and the good.

He woos them and wins them, ‘marries’ them and then relieves them of their nest eggs, departing without a backward glance – his escape route often being via window.

But is there a kinder side to the mysterious Mr Love? After all, he does believe in giving them a wedding night to remember, leaving them smiling, as he says, and is convinced this quid pro quo is sufficient and mistakenly feeling that his countless deceptions are never cruel.

However, love may prove to be the undoing for George Love (Richard Greenhorn) when he is overwhelmed with sympathy for his latest victim.

Plain and plump, Adelaide Pinchin (Cheryl Jones) works in a milliner’s shop, kept behind the scenes in the back room because of her unprepossessing appearance.

As usual, he captures her heart and they wed, but their wedding night is not what he expects. He hears that Adelaide’s life has been blighted by her father who has always held her to ridicule because of her ballooning weight.

Despite this, he decides to depart with her £50 nest egg, only to hesitate at the last moment, and when Adelaide discovers his true intentions and is surprised to discover her own inner strengths, finds himself begging her not to abandon him.

Expertly directed by Brenda Merriott,the action never flags, with an excellent script providing plenty of laughs alongside the soul-searching.

Richard and Cheryl magnificently carry off the difficult task of sustaining a play with only two characters and delivering the poignant dialogue to perfection.

Congratulations must also go to Allan Farrow for his set design and Stan Snape and Robert Clarry for the lighting, which really come into their own towards the end of this ambitious but highly-successful production.

The audience is kept guessing until the very last moment over whether Adelaide and Mr Love will remain together, happy or unhappy ever after, or go their separate ways. And I don’t think anyone guessed the ending – I wouldn’t dream of revealing it to you – that would be a crime!

Jo Rothery