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An Eligible Man (tour - Worthing, Connaught Theatre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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In the final scene of this piece there is a mention of speed-dating, but for those of us in the audience, it feels like we have just spent the last 90 minutes or so watching something very similar. In such a short production, the 17 scene changes come with such frightening rapidity that, before it is possible to begin to get comfortable, the action moves on.

In a nutshell, the story involves Judge Charles Castlemain, very recently widowed, who we first meet on the day of his wife’s funeral. He is comforted by his daughter Poppy Meadows and, just as we start to really feel the emotion of a recently bereaved long-term partner, the action moves to the very next day when the first of a string of “ladies of a certain age” start to throw themselves at him. Quite inexplicably.

John D Collins as Castlemain is suitably wordy and pompous, obviously highly intelligent and extremely well-read, but he’s not really a pleasant person. The fact is that, with almost obscene haste, he is toying with the affections of not one, not two, but three separate ladies, thus making him even less likeable.

The action all takes place in the living room of the judge’s London house over the course of several days and then, in Act Two, over several weeks. There is an off-stage front door to the house which, again inexplicably, seems to always be unlocked as most of the characters just seem to appear in the living room, always at inopportune moments and frequently as uninvited guests.

In the basement flat lives a new tenant. Sally Maddox Paula Stockbridge is a published author, and the first of the unlikely trio of suitors to appear. She is very soon followed by both Lady Jo Henderson Karen Ford, a district judge who has always been “very fond” of the lead character, and Lucille Moss Carol Harrison, a Northern rough-diamond of a woman who instantly falls for the middle-aged, balding and slightly overweight Castlemain.

It is this final character who really shines out, and she gets most of the comic lines in the piece.Harrison’s performance is the one bright spark in an otherwise quite dull production. Her hopelessly out-of-tune, only half-remembered version of “Memory” from the musical Cats is a wonderful diversion from the constant scene changes.

If somehow the scenes in the production could be amalgamated to appear less disjointed, it might make for a more enjoyable evening, but at least I now know just how busy a stagehand can be!


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