A Question of Sex: A Farce in One Act by Arnold Bennett, now playing at the Atlantic Fringe Festival, was printed in his Polite Farces For the Drawing Room in 1900. It is a frothy, obscure little play that is really interesting to see out of its Edwardian context and that still upholds some dignity for polite audiences in our very own TNS Living Room.
Overall this production, directed by Johnny Thompson, is a solid and entertaining piece. The direction is nicely focused with some really exciting visual moments. There is a scene at the end of the play where three characters crowd around one on a chair that concentrates the intensity of the actors in such a way that the chair, and Jesse Robb in it, becomes equivalent to a powder keg. This energy is exactly what this play, and its brand of Edwardian witticism coupled with the constant coming in and out of doors, hinges upon. In this way, I think that the next step in the evolution of this piece would involve tightening up and speeding up the pacing and rhythm of the dialogue. This would also be enhanced by establishing immediate tension and a mounting sense of urgency right off the top of the show.
Thompson’s cast are all in fine form. Benjamin Irvine plays George Gower, the frazzled father of a girl, Emma Laishram is perfectly haughty and proud as his sister-in-law Helen, Claire St. Francois plays his sister May and Jesse Robb plays his Uncle Francis. St. Francois is especially interesting to watch in her interactions with Helen, during which there is some meaty subtext, and Robb gives a wonderfully funny performance as the wicked and cunning Uncle. Their British accents are still developing, they still seem to be getting in the actors’ way rather than appearing seamless, but, that being said, I didn’t find them to be a distraction either.
In all A Question of Sex is essentially Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest: Lite. It is one for which Polite Society would surely still approve of.
A Question of Sex plays at the Theatre Nova Scotia Living Room (2353 Agricola Street) at the following times. It is $5.
Sunday September 4th, 3:30pm
Monday September 5th, 8:30
To book advanced tickets please visit Neptune Theatre’s Box Office, 1593 Argyle Street or call 902.429.7070 or visit www.atlanticfringe.ca.
Same Day Sales are available at the venue (Neptune Studio Theatre) From 1 Hour Before the First Show of the Day.