Flappers Flowers and Friendship

Published: 19-May-2016 by All Theatre

Enchanted April is a bit like uncovering a time capsule, skilfully put in place by a forward-thinking female author of the 1920s.
Two unlikely English travel companions, Lotty Wilton (Heather Pitt) and Rose Arnott (Frances Etheridge), hit the road, and head for the sunny, flowered fields of Tuscany. 

The action unfolds after a chance meeting at their women’s club where Lotty observes Rose reading the same newspaper advertisement, calling for those who “appreciate wisteria and sunshine” to spend a month in a medieval Italian castle. The major obstacles to the “escape plan” are the women’s husbands, who are not invited.
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It is significant to remember these are the interwar years, and this sort of trip could have been scandalous in its day. However, Thelma and Louise it is not. The edginess of the first act is diffused as the repressed, and sometimes grief-stricken female protagonists rediscover their inner children in the golden light of a Tuscan spring. From my perspective, the best thing about this 1920s soft romance is the swift and unrelenting repartee of the female characters. Lotty is seldom, if ever, at a loss for words, and the religious and tight-lipped Rose barely misses a beat. It is nice to watch the women’s friendship blossom as they bond over shared experience. Lotty also has fun one-liners, like: “My husband says my mind is like a hummingbird, it never lands.” But the humour is tinged with pathos.
The condescending husbands (played by William Jordan and Michael Richmond) are actually foils to the much brighter wit of the women. A key turning point in the play is when Lotty and Rose tell their husbands about the impending trip. The timing in this scene is crucial, and the actors hit all their marks. Another strength of this production is the way the setting is imagined. In Act One Post-WWI London is implied by dim lighting and the clever use of umbrellas as props. Later, the stage literally brightens to daylight, when the characters reach the Tuscan castle. By Act Two there is also a shift in the characters’ awareness and demeanour.
‚ÄčNotably, there are strong supporting performances, in particular from Vicki Nield as the formidable, widowed Mrs Graves. The interaction between Mrs Graves and the Italian maid, Constanza (Robyn Williams) is worthy of a few out-loud chuckles.
While the unravelling of the plot towards a happy ending is pleasant, one is left feeling that perhaps all the loose ends are a little too neatly tied up.

Enchanted April plays until May 28, 2016