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The Thunderbolt

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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A dead man’s will goes missing and his illegitimate daughter turns up to spoil the family’s eager division of an estate worth £200,000, or £15m in today’s currency.

Pinero’s 1908 potboiler is a fascinating retrieval by director Sam Walters in a venue that has invaluably picked up the slack in the Victorian and Edwardian repertoire elsewhere: The Thunderbolt is poised between Granville Barker and Priestley as a functional social comedy.

Three brothers, their sister and her blimpish husband in a small Midlands city all need a financial boost -- especially the impoverished musician, Thaddeus Mortimore (Stuart Fox) and his wife Phyllis (Natalie Ogle); as a result, a serious felony has been committed.

Helping to resolve the situation are two lawyers (Vincent Brimble and David Antrobus), as well as the surprise beneficiary herself, whom Gráinne Keenan plays with a cool and touching impartiality.

The brewery business fortune is likely to buttress the hypocritical lifestyle of a moralising newspaper proprietor, a ruthless building contractor and a pair of metropolitan social climbers: they all start behaving like scavengers.

Shaw and Ibsen hover in the background, but Pinero confines his concern to a dissection of how all families behave, in all times, when there’s money sloshing about, and even when there’s not. For all its clunkiness of plotting, and flatness of dialogue, this is an instructive and enjoyable revival.


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