Strange Orchestra

BY RODNEY ACKLAND
11 February 2004 — 20 March 2004

"The play is marvellous…very good indeed." * * * * The Financial Times

"…this beautifully written tragi-comedy…expertly handled in Ellie Jones’ engaging production." Time Out

"Ellie Jones’s finely tuned, well acted production revels in Acklands gusto."Evening Standard

"As much superior to the ordinary stuff of theatre as tattered silk is to unbleached calico" wrote James Agate

"It is glorious how the talk of Rodney Ackland’s Strange Orchestra brings to life the sound world of early 1930s London as vividly as one of Evelyn Waugh’s bright young thing novels of the era. So debonair, so intense."

"As soon as I’ve had one novel published, I’m going to become a Catholic priest."

"That beastly nude man – I hate nude men, they’re much too realistic."

"Do you know, I think it’s positively old-fashioned to be a man? In a few years, there won’t be any left at all."

"The trick of sounding serious within nonsense, frivolous about matters of consequence, earnest about trifles: many of the educated young English made this their speciality in the decades following the first world war, and it is still t be heard today. It’s a form of camp. Ackland catches it so funnily that we feel its infectious appeal. Beneath the fub, you can also hear the pathos, the neurosis. Vera Lyndon’s flat in Chelsea is a Bohemia lodging for her three young-adult children and a range of their fragile, vivid, artistic friends. Ackland’s tone is extraordinary: when one young pair of newlyweds attempt suicide in act three, he still manages to make it secondary to the main action and soon he makes it funny. The tone is so enchanting that it hardly matters that, in order to make this a play, he makes two unrelated crises occur in act two and another two in act three. Hearts are broken, we laugh even as we sympathise and the play is marvellous. Strange Orchestra was new in 1932: it was the first modern play directed by John Gielgud. Ackland (1908-1991) went on to be an important playwright of succeeding decades before losing his nerve in the 1950s. No theatre has done more to resurrect his work than the Orange Tree; Ellie Jone’s direction of Strange Orchestra is very good indeed. The largely young cast displays the kind of unstrained period sense of which one usually now despairs. Ackland writes with charity; we listen with love." * * * * The Financial Times