For a play billed as a rehearsed reading, the small-but-perfectly-formed Finborough Theatre certainly do pull out a good few stops. There is music, a simple set comprised of a small table and chairs, some lighting and sound, and two actors dressed to give a feel for the mid-19th century period setting – far more than I was expecting. But Miss Wilson’s Waterloo – a development of Martin Wimbush’s earlier play, Wellington – is still very much a work in progress.
Produced to coincide with the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, this is a series of conversations between the Duke of Wellington (Martin Wimbush) and Harriette Wilson, interspersed with flashbacks to events involving the many women in his life. All the women are played by the very versatile Karen Archer. While they may be holding their scripts, the two actors bring life and vigour to the words and move about the stage with purpose – this could very easily be a rehearsal just before ‘books down’.
Wimbush makes for a varied Wellington, depending on which woman he’s with. He plays the whimsical buffoon as he prepares for the arrival of his grandchildren (with a touch of Boris Johnson about him) but is also a rapacious flirt and a masterful army commander. Archer deftly switches between the witty and coquettish Harriette and her other characters, each scene demarcated by a change in the lighting (simple yet effective). She creates a very feline and calculating Kitty Pakenham, the droll and supercilious Duchess of Richmond, and breathy, young ingenue Mary Ann Jervis.
My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre. To read the review in full, please click here.