This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com
An book written in 1890 by a nine year old would seem highly unlikely to have scaled the peaks of literary achievement, but The Young Visitors is exactly the type of obscure curiosity that has come to provide rich pickings for Rough Haired Pointer. Having unearthed a comic story first serialised in Punch magazine and a previously unperformed Joe Orton play, the company now revives its 2013 version of young Daisy Ashford’s work. When the book was first published (by JM Barrie) in 1919, it was noted for its wit in depicting the social climbers of the late Victorian era. Well little Miss Ashford is no Oscar Wilde and her spelling may have been dodgy, but her observation skills are remarkable for one so young. Any shortage of verbal wit is compensated for in this production by deft and imaginative touches of physical comedy. Mr Salteena (Jake Curran) is a lower middle class butcher’s son living in Dulwich who aspires to better things, but lacks refinement and confidence. When he is invited to visit the lonely and shy aristocrat Lord Bernard Clark (Geordie Wright), he jumps at the chance and takes along the apple of his eye, Ethel Monticue (Marianne Chase) who, with reddened cheeks and drooping blond ringlets, looks rather like an early prototype for Barbie. In their stuttering climb up the social ladder, which takes them all the way to Buckingham Palace, the couple encounter, among others, the arrogant Lord Clincham (Andrew Brock) and his insolent valet Procurio (Jordan Mallory-Skinner). Ashford’s choices of character names would have served her well had she gone on to script Carry On films. Adaptor Mary Franklin retains a flavour of the original writing through an ever-present narrator (Sophie Crawford). The show looks splendid, Christopher Hone’s set designs surrounding the stage with red and cream curtains, giving pride of place to an ornate wooden gazebo. Carin Nakanishi’s period costumes are also eye-catching and are quickly adaptable, useful for actors playing multiple minor roles. However, the biggest stand-out feature of Franklin’s brisk production is the comedy acting, all six members of her company showing precision timing and exuberance that reminds of a children’s tea party. From the slightest material, Rough Haired Pointer has conjured up 90 minutes of jolly fun. There is nothing to dislike here and nothing to give offence, so most should leave the Tabard with smiles on their faces.
Performance date: 4 March 2016