I am filled with admiration when watching how the relationships between men and women functioned in the time before colour television. It must have been indescribably difficult for the women of the past to be trapped in undesired marriages that society abhorred them divorcing out of. Troupe’s production of Flowering Cherry at the Finborough Theatre is a well-written and sobering snapshot of family life in the late fifties that ponders the failed fantasies of a deeply flawed man, and the endless patience of his wife.
The deeply flawed man, Jim Cherry, is ably played by Liam McKenna while Catherine Kanter puts in a stellar performance as his long suffering Mrs Cherry. The actors in this production are spot on throughout, most of the scenes involving either Cherry and/or his wife, and there are some real gutsy moments that McKenna and Kanter get their teeth stuck in to. I was slightly disappointed that the lives and motivations of the two Cherry juniors (James Musgrave as son Tom and Hannah Morish as daughter Judy) are not explored in greater depth. They and Judy’s potential new housemate, Phoebe Sparrow’s Carol, are fine performers who effortlessly adopt the mannerisms and quirks of the fifties and perhaps deserve a longer stint on stage. That being said, although it didn’t feel it, the show is two hours long so perhaps this was for the best.
I’d also recommend the Finborough Theatre. Whoever designed the seating has my eternal gratitude for taking the time to consider that some patrons may be taller than five foot three and require slightly more leg room. It’s an absolute rarity in London’s playhouses and it is hugely refreshing, particularly in a small theatre such as this, to sit down and not feel like I’ve just boarded an easyJet flight.
Lighting and sound are both fairly minimal throughout, as is to be expected of a production set entirely in someone’s living room, however Alex Marker’s set and Janet Hudson-Holt’s costuming are excellent and they have both clearly paid a great deal of attention to detail vis-à-vis historical accuracy. The only exception to this is a stray bottle of Gordon’s gin that was the absolute twin of the bottle we got rid of on the last post-work drinks at the bar I moonlight in. Plain old clear glass would perhaps be less jarring.
I was talking to my Dad the other day, who was a child of the fifties, about the differences between his mother and mine (sorry Dad, I think I just got you in trouble), and he said “Your mum puts you and your siblings first, me second and herself last, whereas my mum put my father first, me second and herself last”. Find the common denominator in that sentence, and you’ll have your own little slice of admiration for Mrs Cherry.
Flowering Cherry is playing at the Finborough Theatre until 20 December. For more information and tickets, see the Finborough Theatre website. Photo: Finborough Theatre.