November 2016 – Sitting Pretty


Reviewed by Peter Steptoe

The author Amy Rosenthal was 24 when this play was first produced and I wondered how much it owed to Richard Harris’s ‘Stepping Out’; a tap dancing class versus an artists’ class. Was the latter also influenced by Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’ and the Paris Art Class? The originality perhaps lay in the middle aged spinster as the nude model.

It says much for the power of the director (Madeline Reeve) and the actors of Parlour Players that we could be led to believe that a rather plump 55 year old shorthand typist, who had been made redundant, would seek employment as a nude model for an embryo art class. Such was their power that I found myself believing it could be.

Nancy (Caroline East) was the depressed spinster who eventually revelled in her nudity and with whom we empathised. Nina, her sister, was an attractive slim 53 years young sharing their flat and played petulantly by Felicity Abbott. The petulance seemed to have arisen from a long ago love affair. Both these performances were rooted in reality

Max (Chester Stern) was the helpful friend and repair man, whose wife had left him in times past but had recovered only to suffer from unrequited love for Nina, but was given a happy ending by moving in with Nancy.

The art master aged 48  named Philip (John East) had apparently slept with all previous models and as a result was suffering from ‘artists’ block’.  Possible I suppose but I only know of ‘writers’ The last model, tall, elegant Zelda (Tamsin Reeve) had tired of this and eventually went back packing and an attachment with someone nearer her own age. The notice on the National Gallery Cafe was seen by Nancy who turned up for the job and eventually freed Philip from his ‘Block’ by him painting her portrait.

The minor characters in the art class were Luka (Peter Millsted-Bowdery) with the actor’s dream part of two lines of dialogue. Josie (Jane Swale) who talked endlessly and apparently was emotionally involved with Philip. Martin (Ian Mess) who appeared to have come for the nudity and was kept in order by his wife Bridget (Margaret Bishop) and finally Sylvia (Joyce Wells) who arrived late because of an only son who was important to her.

The sixteen scene changes in this two act play were carried out noiselessly and efficiently and the set was of a minimalist nature with fixed wings in order to display flat, cafe and art studio.