That was September - theatre round up
Theatre wishlist: Five actors I long to see on the stage

Straining to see The River Line

Rl2 The Jermyn Street Theatre, a theatre of five rows of raked seating, has done well to stage a play in which chunks of the audience can't see certain scenes. During the interval there was a quick game of musical chairs as people tried out some of the few empty seats to see if the view of the stage would be any better. 

And The River Line isn't a short play either and neither is it fast paced. When two actors are sat having a lengthy philosophical discussion it would be good to not have to crane your neck so you can catch a glimpse of them. The seats are cheap but they certainly aren't in the gods.

At its heart Charles Morgan's The River Line has a great story. Set in the second world war, four allies are being hidden by the French Resistance until they can complete the final stage of their escape over the border into Spain but just as they are about to leave they are forced into making a life or death decision that will haunt them.

It starts a few years after the war when Philip, an American airman, is reunited with Julian, a British army commander who has married Marie the French woman who helped them. Phillip is keen to talk about what happened but Julian isn't. What happened in France is eventually told in the middle third of the play with the final third dealing with the implications.

The problem is it is very slow to get going and gets bogged down in a lot of philosophising about life and fate (and neighbour Valerie's obsession with her half brother). At times you can really feel the tension building but then these seem to get stamped out by long and meaningful discussions that just don't seem to add much.

Mrs Muriven (Valerie's Godmother) played by the delightful Eileen Page is a shamefully underwritten part, providing occasional moments of light relief more of which I could have done with. Likewise Dave Hill's bumbling but clever Pierre Chassaigne (Marie's father) who's approach to avoiding suspicion from the occupying Germans is to cordially invite them into his home so that they think he is a sympathiser.

The rest of the cast do a good job too although Lydia Rose Bewley (Valerie) is one of those actors who doesn't quite seem to know what to do with her hands which I can and did become obsessed with, when I could see her.

There is much to enjoy about this play if you can let the less interesting bits wash over you. And my advice on seating choice would be go for the first couple of rows just to the left of the aisle as most of the action takes place in front of the Jermyn's stage-accessed loo.

I'm going to give it three and a half stars and it runs until October 29.


Charlie Bewley who plays Heron is one of the Twilight Voluturi (that's Vampire Royal Family to those non-Twilight fans). The head of the Voluturi is played by Michael Sheen who played Tony Blair to Helen Mirren's Queen and of course HRH had Mr W's Ariel running around with not very much on in Julie Taymor's The Tempest. (Must remember that one for when I see Sheen play Hamlet later this month.)