Arthur Wing Pinero's Dandy Dick was written in 1887 and although this Theatre Royal/Ambassador Theatre Group production is as cute as a button and quietly amusing; it's not quite got the stamina of a thoroughbred.
Performance wise - you cannot go wrong with Patricia Hodge (Georgiana Tidman) and Nicholas Le Prevost (The very Rev Augustin Jedd, DD) as siblings who are like chalk and cheese. Hodge almost gallops onto the stage with verve and a knowing wink - linking the title character to the proceedngs with ease. Le Prevost is also reliably good, particularly in act two when the farcical elements begin to gallop and he is allowed to let loose.
The Reverend has financial difficulties which makes the play relevant as he and his daughters attempt to scrimp and save. The restoration of the church spire has to wait. Enter his sister, a racehorse and an opportunity that's too good to miss. Cue amusing scenarios and the shadow of Dandy Dick - the horse which has the answers to all their prayers.
Christopher Luscombe has remained loyal to the material and this makes the production very quaint but also slightly slow, when ideally it should be cantering. You long for many of the farcical elements to come sooner. The stage seems very distant and the play would benefit by actors coming into the stalls and beyond. The Royal Exchange seems like a far more ideal venue for an old war horse such as this one.
I heard the usual rattling of sweet wrappers and whispering throughout which made it difficult to hear some of the dialogue and some of the actors - Florence Andrews and Jennifer Rhodes who are delightfully dappy as the reverend's daughters need to project more. The sight gags work a treat though and have many in the audience in hysterics.
Fine performances then and a scene stealking turn from Rachel Lumberg who injects pace and hilarity into act two and Janet Bird's superb set design is striking. As for for the play itself - it's a nice way to forget about the rain and escape but not as funny as you want it to be.