Choices have consequences. Desires beget dilemmas. And between absolute right and undoubted wrong lies a thicket of many shades of grey.
Joanna Trollope's novel Marrying the Mistress is set in this no-man's-land. A man in his sixties is having an affair with a woman half his age. When he tells his wife that he wants a divorce, their sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren are all directly affected. That he is a circuit judge and that one of his sons and his mistress are both lawyers complicates the issue.
Most triangle stories of this type have the wronged wife as heroine, the mistress as villainess, the erring husband as the weak link in their tug-of-war and the family lining up against the interloper. Trollope turns this argument on its head with the wife, and indeed the mistress's mother, as the manipulators, the sons as ambivalent in their reactions and the daughter-in-law as the real conqueror.
In his adaptation of the book, director David Taylor leaves a host of scene-setting characters offstage to be referred to simply in passing. Instead, his cast of eight, abetted by Simon Higlett's multi-location set, focuses the action on a sequence of chance and arranged meetings, interleaved by telephone exchanges.
There's always a risk when bringing a story from page to stage that a reader's vision of the physical appearance of the characters does not coincide with that of the actors. I doubt though that anyone could fault Caroline Langrishe in the pivotal role of daughter-in-law Carrie, Adrian Lukis as her harassed husband Simon or Polly Adams as the obstinate wife.
Mat Ruttle is engaging as young Jack, a teenager coming to terms with both sex and love. Jeremy Clyde's Guy comes over as someone who reacts rather than initiates, which is a bit odd as it is his actions which precipitate the whole drama and then its unwinding. Daisy Beaumont as Merrion, Jacqueline Clarke as her mother and Damien Goodwin as the gay brother (who interestingly seem to see the situation more clearly because he holds back from immediate involvement), complete the cast.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at The Arts Theatre, Cambridge)