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Theatre Review: Quality Street ***

Joy Watters reviews a production that 'requires the willing suspension of disbelief'.

JM Barrie’s rarely-staged 1901 comedy looks back a century to the lot of women, whether they will gain social acceptability through marriage or whether, whisper it, they must remain old maids.

It focuses on sisters Phoebe and Susan Throssel during the Napoleonic Wars, living in their little house in an English county town. Phoebe is expecting a proposal of marriage from the local doctor but he decides to go off to war instead.

The doc, Valentine Brown, returns ten years later and is shocked by Phoebe’s aged appearance. Furious, she does herself up and pretends to be her young niece, flirting with all the boys.

But then Phoebe (Fiona Wood) decides to be her own woman. Wood handles the shift from soft centre to hard nut with ease. People must accept her for what she is, she decides.

Valentine (Alan Mirren) realises what he has been missing and proposes. There’s a nice growing comic edge to Mirren’s performance. He turns out to be a decent sort, but as husband potential there is the unexplored question of him losing the Throssel sisters’ fortune with unwise investment.

Helen Logan pops in and out as the Scots maid to tell it all like it is and contribute to the humour.

Director Liz Carruthers makes the most of the material she has and a lot of this little confection requires the willing suspension of disbelief.

Runs in repertoire at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until October 12.

Tags: theatre

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