Enid Bagnold's 1951 play tells the story of an old woman's attempts to find a governess to help tame an unruly granddaughter and an unruly garden. After a string of frailer candidates and despite her mysterious background, Miss Madrigal is appointed as the new governess of Laurel, a somewhat 'difficult' teenage girl. Setting about her task with vigour, Madrigal is determined to do whatever it takes to straighten out her troubled young charge before she becomes totally unmanageable.
The Chalk Garden was Bagnold's biggest stage success. It enjoyed runs on both Broadway and in the West End and was made into a 1964 film starring Hayley Mills, Deborah Kerr, John Mills and Edith Evans. Also a novelist, Bagnold was probably best known for her 1935 book National Velvet.
Lipman, who was to play Miss Madrigal, has had to pull out of the two-month tour due to family illness. She was last seen in the West End in 2000 in Alan Plater's Peggy for You, which transferred to the Comedy Theatre from Hampstead, while her other recent stage credits include Oklahoma!, Sitting Pretty (written by her daughter Amy Rosenthal) and The Vagina Monologues. Lipman is familiar to TV viewers for, amongst other things, her long-running role as Beattie in the British Telecom adverts.
The Chalk Garden is directed by theatre critic-cum-director Sheridan Morley whose other credits include The Lodger, Noel and Gertie and Song at Twilight, which starred both Vanessa and Corin Redgrave in its 1999 West End run. The revival is produced by Bill Kenwright.
Following Windsor, The Chalk Garden will visit Brighton, Milton Keynes, Richmond, Bromley, Woking and Canterbury. With Lipman in the lead, the production was expected to transfer to the West End at the end of its tour. That will now depend heavily on the pulling power of new casting.
- by Terri Paddock