Pinero’s comedy has a couple of favourites in the saddle who go the distance in a two act showing that explores the hypocrisy of Victorian society.
TV and stage favourite Patricia Hodge cracks the whip as a no-nonsense racehorse trainer Georgiana Tidman who has fallen on hard times since the loss of her husband.
She reluctantly goes to live with her dour clergyman brother, who she hasn’t seen in years, in a bid to rebuild her life.
The problem is that he, The Very Rev Augustin Jedd, dean of St Marvells, abhors gambling and anything to do with the turf.
But desperate times call for desperate measures and the only way he can save his church roof is by gambling his savings and reputation on the success of his sister’s favourite nag who has just happened to turn up in the parish for a big race.
It’s a riot from start to finish thanks entirely to its very able and confident cast. Hodge has a great time slapping her thighs and snorting her contempt for abstention while generally leading her priggish brother astray.
Nicholas Le Prevost’s dean talks in asides to the audience whenever he has a crisis of conscience and, conspiratorially, takes them into his confidence. He loses his moral compass for the greater good (saving the roof and his bank balance which is frequently put under pressure by his two teenage daughters’ profligate spending on clothes) but he is consumed with guilt.
The going gets heavy under foot for the impoverished old dean when he tries to help the poor nag get over a cold and he is arrested for dope pushing. Will the horse win its race and will the clergyman live down the shame of his actions?
It’s a wonderfully silly romp which falls somewhere between an old fashioned farce and a modern situation comedy.
There’s not a weak runner in the line-up, from Jedd’s flighty young fillies Florence Andrews and Jennifer Rhodes as Salome and Sheba, to Michael Cochrane’s gentleman trainer, Sir Tristram Mardon (Bart); John Arthur as the roguish butler Blore, and a great comedy double act of Matt Weyland and Rachel Lumberg as village bobby Noah Topping and his wife, the former deanery cook Hannah.
Sadly the nag itself doesn’t make a late sprint in from the wings before the finishing line but this winner of a show will be a favourite with theatre-goers.
It runs at The Waterside from Tuesday, July 17 until July 21. For tickets go to the box office www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury or call 0844 871 7607.