Set in 1932, also the year of its first performance, this concerns the effect of WW1, and the following Great Depression on the Ardsley family.
Having been an ambulance driver and subsequently a member of the Secret Intelligence Service, Maugham certainly knew whence he came.
However, the play did not prove initially popular being somewhat anti-war, lasting for only 78 performance in the West End, though there have since been many successful revivals.
Set in the drawing room of the middle class Ardsley family, headed by the wealthy but unpleasant businessman father, Leonard, whose son, Sydney, has returned from the war blind. “I’ve paid for the war alright,” Leonard declares, glancing at his son, whilst being proud that although too old to fight he had actually volunteered to be a special constable.
In fact, apart from Leonard’s long suffering wife, Charlotte, it’s not easy to find any sympathetic characters, though Sydney comes close – blind but all seeing where the others are concerned.
No wonder the play wasn’t originally popular. It must have been too close to home for many of the audience, rattling quite few cages for both husbands and wives.
Poor Collie Stratton, having commanded a ship in the navy sets up the village garage only to fail and fall into debt as the Depression sets in. “What should I know about business, I’ve been a sailor for 20 years?” he asks. But the question and plight fall on deaf ears.
While most of the marriages around seem rocky, young daughter of the house, Lois (excellently portrayed by Lydia Chalmers) is pursued by several men who care little for their wives.
It’s a tough play, but very well acted by all concerned; a real glimpse into changing times, humanity, and the effects of war.
A seriously good production where the action never flags. Well worth a visit.
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Reviewer: Philip Horton
For Services Rendered by W. Somerset Maugham, is a Next Stage Theatre Company production, directed by Bob Constantine at The Mission Theatre in Bath.
The show is on at the Mission Theatre until Saturday 26th January at 7.30pm, with matinee on Saturday 26th at 2pm. For more information, visit their website here.