After the disappointing Small Change, my previous confidence in the Donmar for giving a guaranteed performance has taken a small dent, hence my slight scepticism in attending this latest production of Enid Bagnold’s The Chalk Garden. This story is set in a slightly run down conservatory of a country house and it is about the relationships that the characters are developed from their less than ideal environment sybolised by the chalk garden. With the new arrival of the governess Miss Madrigal and her influence over the house, which include the off stage dying butler who ruled the house with an iron fist previously, the story unfolds into a coming of age for not just the young Laurel but for all its occupants. The dialog was snappy, witty and clever if not a little artificial but nonetheless has a flow to it which managed to avoid the trap of melodrama. Margaret Tyzack was brilliant as the head of the house with a distinct sense of faded glamour attributed to the character. Felicity Jones’ young Laurel was youthful without being deliberate and Penelope Wilton’s Miss Madrigal was acted with the restraint, tension and control and enough hints of emotion about her past which keeps you guessing. The only criticism is that slight loss of momentum with the arrival of the judge in the last act which seems a little forced in bringing Miss Madrigal to confront her past. But this is only a minor criticism to otherwise an outstanding, well acted production which has once again given me faith in the Donmar.


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