Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Black comedy with a heart marches to its own beat

Black comedy with a heart marches to its own beat

Lloyd George Knew My Father | Theatre Royal, Windsor | Tuesday, July 17

IN William Douglas Home’s black comedy with a heart, the Made for Windsor team presented a moving and very funny account of determination, longevity and loyalty.

At grand, historic country house Boothroyd Hall, General Sir William Boothroyd (James Pellow) and his wife, Lady Sheila (Judith Paris), are faced with the imminent prospect of a major road bypass encroaching on their land.

Lady Sheila tries to cajole their son Hubert, who happens to be an MP, into badgering the Minister of Transport, but to no avail — and so she has declared her intention to do herself in the minute the bulldozers start.

This horrifies daughter-in-law Maud, while granddaughter Sally takes it on the chin, and the menfolk are generally perplexed.

As she enlists Sally’s beau, budding photojournalist Simon, to aid her cause and local vicar Trevor for moral guidance, Sir William’s former army comrade, loyal butler Robertson, keeps the household running smoothly, all the while his facial expressions and simple responses revealing nothing but saying everything.

In the meantime, the deaf and bumbling, daft as a brush Sir William alternates between dropping little gems of wisdom into the conversation and then completely zoning out.

As Lady Sheila gathers her thoughts, prepares her family and starts giving away her valuables, she goes into intricate and meticulous plannning mode, with choices of wood for her coffin, the epitaph for her tombstone, and even giving Hubert the option to add to it later.

She reflects on the 300-odd years the Boothroyds have been in the house, with a hilarious tale about an ancestor and a duck pond somehow adding to the gravitas.

As Maud becomes hysterical, Sally is matter of fact and Hubert tries to play down the situation — not helped by Lady Sheila cutting out the shape of her memorial stone and discussing stonemasons, leading to a wonderful bit of dialogue where she and Hubert try repeatedly to explain to Sir William that they are discussing stonemasons and not freemasons.

The 50 years of marriage between the Boothroyds is summed up in some great moments, Sir William referring to his wife as “bonkers” while revealing that he follows the path she keeps him on.

With the play being named after an old schoolboy ditty said to have emerged some time around the First World War, and sung and played to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers, this summed up Lady Sheila’s attitude and determination.

As they headed towards impending devastation, given a specific time to gather for breakfast, there was a strange kind of tension and affection between the characters, with the denouement telling us a lot about love, devotion and standing your ground.

Until Saturday.

Natalie Aldred

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