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 The Theatreguide.London Review

London Wall
Finborough Theatre  February 2013; St James Theatre May 2013

It's no surprise that John Van Druten's 1931 play is a well-made, engrossing and entertaining drama. It is a bit of a shock how very contemporary its depiction of women in the business world feels. 

Despite the passage of time, despite women's lib, political correctness and sexual harassment suits, I suspect that too many young working women today will find themselves reflected in this excellent Two's Company production. 

We're in a law firm run by men but populated largely by female secretaries, file clerks and typists. And to a woman they are all, consciously or not, just biding time until they marry. 

Some have a specific man they want to marry, some just want To Be Married, and all are vaguely or specifically aware of the spectre of Never Marrying which is the most dreadful fate of all. 

The central character is a new girl young enough to be only barely conscious of having a future, much less of her attraction to the nice young man who himself hasn't quite realised he's in love with her. This makes her easy prey to the one predatory cad among the lawyers, despite the warnings of the thirty-five year old office veteran who herself must face the awareness that the dreaded spectre is closing in on her. 

Directed skilfully and sensitively by Tricia Thorns, the actors and actresses capture the period flavour beautifully while letting us see, without preaching, the contemporary relevance.

Maia Alexander depicts the girl's innocence without ever letting her seem foolish, and keeps us wishing for the best even as she wanders toward the primrose path. Alix Dunmore makes the older secretary a co-heroine of the piece by showing the concern she feels for others and the courage with which she faces her own demons. 

Alex Robertson lets us see that the lawyer is not a monster but just a guy operating in a world in which office girls are presumed to be fair game, and David Whitworth and Marty Cruickshank register warmly as a kindly boss and a ditzy client. 

You can, if you wish, view London Wall as a period piece, and as I said, the period atmosphere and details are captured beautifully, down to the hair styles. But a quick check with any working woman today, particularly from among the secretarial ranks, will assure you how very little this fascinating play has dated.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - London Wall - Finborough Theatre 2013   

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