I am going to have to give you a bit of a history lesson before I get into this review. Storm In A Flower Vase, based on the novel The Surprising Life Of Constance Spry by Sue Sheppard, is the story of legendary housewife and eccentric florist Spry, who was the pioneer for the workingwoman, running a successful business while being a devoted wife… or so everybody thought. Behind her successful business and marriage laid something much more deeper, filled with affairs, heartache and despair.
From the moment the lights go down you definitely know that Storm In A Flower Vase is going to be a show of acquired taste. It is a show about the lady that created Coronation Chicken, for goodness sake. But just because you cannot relate to the overall subject does not mean that the themes in the show are not as important. Some interesting things are raised in the play, the biggest being sexuality in the 1930s. But did the show do its best to address the issue? Not quite.
Penny Downie gives a great performance as Constance Spry. She does the ‘carry on even though everything is breaking down’ act incredibly well, and when you see the difference between her photo in the programme and her on stage it is impressive. Carolyn Backhouse tries to play well against Downie as Spry’s lover, Gluck, but the delivery is not as good as hoped for. It feels a little stiff in some way, which makes the longing moments seem a little dull and Downie’s breakdowns are not as effective.
There are some lovely moments in the show though, including possibly one of the greatest quotes I have ever heard in a show: “Make the best with what you’ve got… as there is always somebody uglier than you are.” You will find yourself laughing at the right parts, and humming along to the music played on stage.
While the show is an enjoyable watch, Storm In A Flower Vase really lacks any flair that can keep a whole audience entertained. Its controversial story is not really controversial at all. If you do go, though, you might just pick up a few things about floristry along the way.
Storm In A Flower Vase is playing at Arts Theatre until 12 October 2013. For more information and tickets, see the Arts Theatre website.