Candida, Theatre Royal Bath

PLAYING Tom Riddle (aka the fledgling he -who-must-not-be-named) in the Harry Potter Films must be a big thrill for a young actor, but it doesn’t make him a suitable candidate to play an Earl’s son in a Shavian comedy set firmly in the London of 1894.

Frank Dillane plays poet Eugene Marchbanks in Simon Godwin’s production of Candida, the second show of the Bath Theatre Royal 2013 summer season, on until 20th July, with the energetic and compelling Jamie Parker as the Rev James Morrell, a socialist vicar whose radical views make him one of the most sought-after speakers in London.

James is secure in the love of his family, his parishoners, his staff and – most of all – his wife Candida. When the teenage poet, who has been taken in and nurtured, announces not only that he is in love with Mrs Morrell, but that she loves him too, it throws the entire balance of the vicar’s life into a maelstrom of doubt.

To make this work, the audience must be convinced of the charisma of Eugene, and of a certain chemistry between him and Candida. Sadly, Mr Dillane cannot convince anyone but the cloth-eared that he could possibly be the son of an earl in the 1890s, nor that Candida (nor even the lovelorn Miss Garnett) could ever for one moment confide in this charmless, asinine, whinging brat.

It is an insuperable hurdle in an otherwise fine production, set in Mike Britton’s cleverly distorted drawing room, with excellent performances by Jo Herbert as Prossy and by Christopher Godwin, taking over hilariously at 48 hours notice as Candida’s father.

Charity Wakefield is a Candida who needs a bit more irony and depth. GP-W


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