REVIEW: Wonderful by Richard Huber

SBZ Productions presents Wonderful by Richard Huber
Playhouse Theatre — November 10

The changing dynamics of the life-long relationship between a bored and privileged English lady and her loyal butler are explored in Richard Huber’s witty and intriguing new play, Wonderful.

The premiere production, directed by Huber and featuring Sarah and Blaise Barham in the roles of Lady Hermione and her butler Roberts, keeps its audience on its toes, listening hard to keep up with the cut and thrust of conversation between the pair.

Set in the 1920s, when better things seem just around the corner, the play begins with a ‘bored’ Lady Hermione sequestering herself away from her family, as she contemplates the worth of her gilded life and reminisces on days gone by.

Her poetically whimsical musings, liberally laced with literary references and comic asides, are heard with varying degrees of tolerance by her servant companion, as he keeps her glass filled with gin.

Gradually it emerges that Lady Hermione is avoiding giving an answer to a proposal, instead daydreaming of running away with Roberts for a bohemian life in Berlin.

But things are not so simple for him — as a returned World War 1 soldier with a lifetime of service to the family, contemplating a life of insecurity with his capricious mistress could be a step too far.

Against a stark backdrop, with only a chair and drinks trolley as a set, Sarah and Blaise Barham work hard through a series of short scenes to bring the play’s quick-fire comedy and existential themes to the fore, usually successfully.

As the story unfolds, amidst a blizzard of words, the silent yearning between the pair is where the play finds its heart, and in a devastating wartime story told by Roberts, the comedy gives way to tragedy.

With its minimalist set, the visual and aural impact of Wonderful is enhanced with lighting design by Meko Ng, lighting and sound by Jordan Wichman, and stage management by Becky Hodson.

In its first outing, Wonderful shows that an ‘‘old-fashioned’’ form of theatre, the drawing room comedy, has a lot to say about the state of the world today, and what is really important in relationships between human beings. Fascinating.

Shifting relationship ... Blaise Barham (left) and Sarah Barham are Lady Hermione and her loyal...
Shifting relationship ... Blaise Barham (left) and Sarah Barham are Lady Hermione and her loyal butler Roberts in new play Wonderful, written and directed by Richard Huber. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD