The Lament of Dorothy Wordsworth

Aug 15 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆  Meditative history

Paradise in The Vault (Venue 29): Mon 12 – Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Lament of Dorothy Wordsworth, by PenPal Productions at Paradise in The Vault, is a careful piece of literary and historic interest.

Dorothy – sister of the poet William Wordsworth, with whom she shared a cottage – has long been a figure of some fascination. PenPal’s first production concentrates largely on Dorothy’s reaction to William’s decision to marry her friend Mary, and the effect this will have on Dorothy’s own domestic circumstances.

Gillian Massey. Pic: PenPal Productions

Writer Jane Sunderland’s evocation of Dorothy is done with considerable elegance and charm. It is a well structured piece, developing her character and situation effectively.

Gillian Massey’s performance is quietly insistent, evoking the character’s fears, doubts and creativity. While it is a wholly convincing performance, the understated nature of the production does lead to some problems.

Melloney Flinn’s direction is carefully crafted, and overcomes many of the problems a single-handed show can have in terms of visual impact. However, it is all on the quiet side, which is always going to create problems in a typical Fringe venue – underground, and with other distractions around.

overused and over-literal

It is no fault of the production that extraneous noise – even in a morning show – can distract, but there are deliberate choices that also work against the play. Sound effects are overused and over-literal; when Dorothy has already told us it is raining, there is no need to play the sound of rain over speakers.

Similarly, the use of stark lighting cues to signal each change of scenery or mood is distracting and adds nothing to a performance that is already well capable of evoking transitions in place or feeling.

It is a shame that these elements of the performance are not as subtle as most of the staging or acting, and undermine rather than supporting it. However, they do not detract too much from a beautifully achieved central performance.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Paradise in The Vault, 11 Merchant St, EH1 2QD (Venue 29)
Monday 12 –Sunday 25August 2019
Daily (not Sun 18) at 10.30 am
Tickets and details:

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