Review – My Three Angels

Nov 15 2013 | By More

✭✭✩✩✩   Entertaining but muted

My Three Angels: Anne Trotter (Madame Dulay), Beatrice Hawdon (Marie Louise Dulay), Martin Burnell (Felix Dulay), and the three convicts - Andrew Hawdon (Joseph - 3011), Gavin Bolus (Jules -6817) and Ken Latham (Alfred - 4707). Photo © Margaret Milne

My Three Angels. Photo © Margaret Milne

St Bride’s Centre
Wed 13 – Sat 16 Nov 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

Slight and somewhat worthy, Sam and Bella Spewack’s 1950s comedy is given a muted but entertaining production by the Edinburgh Makars at the St Bride’s Centre this week.

Christmas 1910 in a penal colony in French Guiana, South America, and as the heat rises, shopkeeper Felix Dulay and his family anticipate a visit from their cousins from France with mixed feelings.

Off stage, a trio of convicts – murderers sent from the prison to do work in the community – can be heard mending their roof. And when things get heavy downstairs, they can’t help coming down to give a hand.

Felix Dulay, played by Martin Burnell with an air of otherworldliness, is not looking forward to meeting the hard-nosed Gaston Lemare, a cousin by marriage who swindled him out of a shop in France and then financed the current venture.

Burnell gets, on the button, the vagueness of a man who is too kind hearted to be a shopkeeper. He is not exactly feckless, but his utterly benign temperament allows everyone to take advantage as he gives out credit left right and centre.

Not that his doting wife Emilie has any inkling of the real situation as he waffles on and obfuscates everything. Anne Trotter has an excellent air of exasperation, she is clearly ready to put her foot down but just can’t bring herself to be nasty to such a good man.

Their daughter, Marie-Louise, has rather better prospects on the ship due in dock. It also carries Gaston’s nephew and ward, Paul. The excitably skipping Beatrice Cant surmounts the age difference with her character to superbly convey the joy of a girl meeting the boy she hasn’t seen for the year since they left France – but has promised marriage.

Under Irene Mackenzie’s solid direction, the particulars of time and place are built up with moderate attention to detail. The whole nature of a penal colony, where convicts are called upon to be servants and workers in the community, comes out well enough, as does Felix’s precarious tenure.

Divine fallen angels, playing God in His absence
My Three Angels: Ken Latham (Alfred - 4707), Anne Trotter (Madame Dulay), Beatrice Hawdon (Marie Louise Dulay), Martin Burnell (Felix Dulay), Andrew Hawdon (Joseph - 3011) and Gavin Bolus (Jules -6817). Photo © Martin Burnell

Edinburgh Makars’ My Three Angels. Photo © Martin Burnell

The Frenchness is not quite as apparent as it might be, but it works well enough. It is important as the whole device of the play twists around a French Christmas carol, Trois Anges Sont Venus (Three angels have arrived).

When the convicts on the roof come down, they prove to be thoroughly decent middle-class types who use their worldly wise knowledge to guide the  family through their festivities and overcome the arrival of the cousins

Providing the backbone to the play, it’s their tinkering and opinions which get below the saccharine of the script to bring about a whole debate of the fight of good against evil and the question of when the ends justify the means.

It’s thoroughly frothy stuff – Christmas schmaltz would be a good description if Mackenzie had not had the good sense to keep the Christmas presence to a minimum – which the production succeeds in giving a bit more gravitas than it probably deserves, thanks to a trio of particularly laid-back performances from the three convicts.

Ken Latham as young excitable Alfred, Gavin Bolus as the regretful and reflective Jules and Andrew Hawdon as the go-getting forger and accountant, Joseph, do a superb job in finding the point where you are not quite sure whether they really are convicts or some kind of divine fallen angels, playing God in His absence.

The pay-off is a distinct lack of lightness of tone. It needs to be much brisker, swooping along at pace so the anodyne, wet Saturday afternoon TV movie feel of the script isn’t quite so obvious. The lack of such pace is partly down to a hesitancy with the script itself.

And it also means that when it comes to the cousins, Chester Parker as the villainous Gaston and Mike Appleby as Paul, the object of Marie-Louise’s infatuation, have nowhere to take their characters. There needs to be much more passion here, where there is currently a rather plodding deliberation.

Still, while a better pace would shave an easy five – maybe even ten – minutes off each of the three acts, time passes quickly enough and the depths which the company find in the script make up for the lack of surface finesse.

Running time 2hrs, 35 mins, including two intervals.
Run ends Saturday 16 November 2013
Daily 7.30pm.
St Brides Centre, 10 Orwell Terrace, EH11 2DZ
Details on Edinburgh Makars website:


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