The Madras House
BY HARLEY GRANVILLE BARKER
6 September 2006 — 14 November 2006
The Madras House, regarded by many as Barker’s best, is a mighty play. Written in 1910 against a background of the suffrage movement, the play is about sex, idealism and power, and deals with the changing and developing role of women at the beginning of the last century.
The action moves from the Huxtable household with its six, trapped, unmarried daughters, to the drapery emporium, where the “live-in” system provides a different prison and where mannequins, who speak no English, are prodded and pulled as they parade fashions to delight the idle rich.
Throughout the play weave the figures of Constantine and Philip Madras. Constantine, the designer whose flair created The Madras House, has now retired and converted to Islam, while his son Philip is eager to sell his inherited empire and find a new life and a different way forward with his wife. Harley Granville Barker was one of the giants of twentieth century theatre and the Orange Tree has always championed his work.
The Theatre presented the world premieres of his final two plays, and in 2004 we opened our season with the critically acclaimed The Marrying of Ann Leete. Ours is the first production of The Madras House since the Edinburgh Festival’s Barker retrospective in 1992.