New Theatre Productions in fine form in their gorgeous setting!

The Roundabout
The Roundabout

REVIEW: The Roundabout by J B Priestley – in repertoire with The Rivals, New Theatre Productions, West Dean Gardens until Saturday, July 7.

Next year New Theatre Productions will be offering their 40th season.

Their 2018 production of The Roundabout beautifully illustrates why they have done so well for so long – and why they are one of my very favourite things about the Chichester arts scene.

Their starting point is the sublime pergola theatre, a simply gorgeous setting – but year after year they pick precisely the right plays to take advantage of it and they deliver them with style and sensitivity, offering the odd surprise along the way.

Had you ever heard of The Roundabout? No, neither had I, and that was a big part of the pleasure. No one would claim it’s a major classic that has slipped through the net of history, but New Theatre Productions certainly showed it’s a mini gem very ripe for reconsideration.

Directing it was New Theatre Productions founder John Hyatt – and in the production you sense both John’s sureness of touch and the trust his cast has in him. They know they are in excellent hands, the perfect springboard for the performances they gave.

We are in an interwar country house where his Lordship (very nicely played by James Woodley) is facing not just financial ruin but also the sudden unexpected arrival of his daughter Pamela, boyishly kitted out, horror of horrors, as a communist.

In tow is Comrade Staggles, a terrific performance from Christopher Lewington as a randy red, spouting his communist indignation but actually prey to… well, rather more basic instincts.

Matching him every step of the way is Angela Barber as Pamela, maintaining her clipped period accent but more importantly also maintaining our curiosity: just what exactly is this rather meddlesome woman up to?

It all comes together beautifully, and it is great to note that the company has enjoyed precisely the weather it has deserved this year.

And just remember: Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final will be over well before New Theatre Productions’ last performance of their 2018 season. Now, that really is good timing!

Phil Hewitt