Bell, Guide and Candle by John Van Druten – Theatre on the Tabard

Revivals typically work. Consider the Nationwide’s 1994 revival of Githa Sowerby’s Rutherford & Son (1912) or the Finborough’s newer revival of Distinguished Villa (1926). Sadly, the Tabard’s new manufacturing of John Van Druten’s Bell, Guide and Candle will not be a type of revivals. The play proceeds on the belief that witchcraft is actual and that witches can fall in love, albeit at a price. It was written in 1948 however not staged till 1950 when Lilli Palmer appeared as Gillian Holroyd, a younger witch who falls in love with a person who lives in her house block. The half had been rejected by Vivien Leigh who opted as an alternative to guide in A Streetcar Named Want (what was she pondering?!). The position was an enormous success for Palmer, who performed alongside her then husband, Rex Harrison and an actual Siamese cat, and forged smoky and colourfully sparky spells in an ashtray, conjuring – actually – indoor fireworks. The Palmer-Harrisons even introduced the manufacturing to London the place it had a profitable run within the West Finish regardless of competitors from, of all issues, The Crucible.

Again within the ‘50s, critics credited the success of Bell, Guide and Candle to its forged and the cat, with one describing the play as “a gentle romantic comedy in want of the salt and spices of super-acting”. And that continues to be an ideal abstract of the problem it presents to anybody looking for to revive it. As Gillian, Beth Burrows has the toughest process – to persuade and endear as a lovestruck sorceress with out the chemistry that comes with enjoying reverse one’s partner and missing an actual cat or any particular results. She struggles. Everybody struggles. The surprisingly accented Edward Hayes-Neary is unconvincing because the romantic lead whereas Daniel Breakwell can do nothing however camp up his position as Gillian’s trickster brother Nicky. The one vivid gentle is Zoë Teverson, enjoying Gillian’s aunt, who does her finest to exploit as a lot comedy as doable out of Van Druten’s dry and dated dialogue, amping up her character’s mischievous facet fairly than, as in most productions, merely presenting her as an aged scatterbrain. Finishing the forged is Richard Lynson as a dry-as-dust creator of books debunking or exposing witchery.

Bell, Guide and Candle is value seeing however solely as a reminder of how weak comedies had been close to three quarters of a century in the past. The fault lies within the script not within the stars, and on this manufacturing their finest efforts and people of the costume designer, Alice McNicholas, are countered by a fairly old style model of course, a sparse set and an absence of any actual magic.

Assessment by Louis Mazzini

It’s Christmas Eve in London, 1954, however younger witch Gillian Holroyd’s temper is extra stressed than festive. She desires one thing totally different this season, maybe within the type of her enticing new tenant, Tony Henderson. But he’s going to announce his engagement to her old style rival on New Yr’s Eve.

Gillian may use her extraordinary magical powers to bind him with a spell, however that wouldn’t be a lot of a problem.

Can she win his affection with out resorting to the darkish arts? And what is going to it do to her if she succeeds?


Beth Burrows performs Gillian Holyrod

Edward Hayes-Neary performs Anthony Henderson

Zoë Teverson performs Miss Holyrod

Richard Lynson performs Sidney Redlitch

Daniel Breakwell performs Nicholas Holyrod

Mark Giesser directs

Bell Guide and Candle

Theatre on the Tabard

2 Bathtub Highway, London, W4 1LW

Thursday 16 February to Saturday 11 March 2023