Skip to content


Winter at Rushton Manor
Published on Saturday, 08 May 2010

According to the programme which accompanies Winter at Rushton Manor, this period-piece parody is comedy for comedy’s sake; “a dialogue-driven script in which not a great deal actually happens on stage”.  Ah, but there’s the rub.  Sad to say, I fear writer-director Dan R Martin has penned a potential hit – but badly flubbed it with languid staging.

It’s all desperately static and slow; vast sections are performed simply sitting at a table, and the delivery lacks the perkiness needed to carry such a pared-down approach through.  There was little use of lighting or sound – the only music I recall was to cover a lengthy scene change – and production values, too, were poor.  There were genuine sparks of wit, but it felt like the actors were struggling in a quagmire.

It’s a shame, because I think this could have the makings of a very funny play.  The main characters are nicely conceived, with the splendidly aristocratic lady of the house living her life according to a bizarre set of rules (“I wouldn’t dream of serving duck were it not served by Olivia”).  There are waspish one-liners and witty comebacks, and I liked the fundamental uselessness of the mansion’s resident ghost, whose idea of a terrifying haunting is to stack volumes of Shakespeare on the kitchen table.
Among the cast, my eye was caught by Andrew Mulquin, all smiles and toothbrush moustache, who brought just the right amount of hamminess to his role.  Dan Martin ventured on stage for a few nice cameos too, foppishly sardonic as the bitter evicted lover.

As time goes on, the plot becomes preposterously complicated – deliberately so, in the honourable tradition of a country-house farce.  And as the storyline tightened up, so did the performance, with the last scene delivering a burst of energy and a tantalizing flash of what might have been.

Turning back to those programme notes, it’s clear this show was an experiment; and experiments are always interesting, even when they go wrong.  Faster, tighter and a little bit shorter, Winter at Rushton Manor may have a future still.

<< Lovers Walk   The No. 9 Bus To Utopia >>


These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.