we may think that our double-dipping recession might become,
Cornelius is a chastening reminder that the Depression of the
1930s was far worse.
the struggles of Briggs and Murrison in J. B. Priestley's play might be
mirrored by any number of metal suppliers today, the problems of some of
the "travellers" who crossed their threshold desperate to make a sale
are outside our experience. Thankfully, in Britain today, there are
not millions of unfortunates too poor to afford food, despite working
all of the hours under the sun.
Alan Cox rather manically portrays the titular central figure, Jim
Cornelius, a junior partner in this failing business. He desperately
tries to put on a brave face as a creditors' meeting approaches which
shows every sign of being terminal for the company.
The David Woodhead-designed office, looking wholly realistic as is the
way at the Finborough, is filled with a series of rather stereotypical
characters. Working for Cornelius are Biddle, a loyal cashier and
amateur numerologist impeccably played by Col Farrell, frowsy
love-lorn Miss Porrin (Annabel Topham), who is more interested in the
boss than her work and Lawrence (David Ellis), an increasingly
frustrated office boy with ambitions.
The equilibrium changes with the arrival of Miss Evison, a temporary
secretary, wise beyond her years, played with suitable empathy by
Emily Barber, a fresh actress of great talent from whom we will
undoubtedly hear a great deal more.
This group accurately reflect the trials and tribulations of office
life in the days when class was still a significant factor. The point
is made even more plainly with the arrival of a quartet of creditors
who act as if they own the place, although economically they probably
In addition to the office politics and a triangle of unrequited love,
Cornelius addresses the issue of suicide with great sensitivity,
allowing the playwright to air on his own personal debate for the
delectation of viewers.
While Cornelius is not comparable with An Inspector Calls or the Time
Plays, Sam Yates's revival is still both an interesting look at life
in the 1930s and a chance to enjoy a lesser-known piece by Priestley,
originally produced by Basil Dean at the Duchess with Ralph Richardson
in the lead
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Review - Cornelius - Finborough Theatre 2012