In the ninth Fringe show by the City of London Freemen’s School, Phil Tong brings to the stage his adaptation of Agnes Owens’s novel. Looking back on her tragic life from a mental hospital, Peggy begins writing a book, and both her past and present are acted out onstage. Growing up during WWII, young Peggy secures a job as a paper girl and has an affair with her employer. Thinking he will marry her when she falls pregnant, she is instead abandoned, forced by her disapproving mother to have the baby adopted.
Ambitious material for a young cast to tackle, they are often adept at conveying the emotional struggle inherent in the tale. Sometimes the tension is brushed over a little too quickly, not quite harnessing the necessary emotional depth, but the performance can be very moving, and it is impressive to see young actors dealing with such mature topics. Though the staging was occasionally a bit static, the interaction between characters sometimes slightly awkward, the small space and set were generally put to good use.
A play with characters of all different ages, the performances of the two bickering old ladies are delightful to watch: Abby Hampden (Old Peggy) conveys a notable thoughtful maturity, and Lorna McKellar’s (The Duchess) portrayal is both emotive and amusing. Laura Douglas (Young Peggy) captures the youthful meekness and latent strength of the character, resigned to let others make decisions about her life, until she makes a life-changing resolution of her own.
A large cast of capable young actors, some shone even in smaller roles: among others, Grace Roger (Lily), Olivia Bieri (Mrs Roper) and Dan Sareen (Boris) were all understated and believable. This is mature, often quite dark, tragi-comic material, and there were many moments in which the group rose to the challenge it presents.
For the Love of Willie
Quaker Meeting House
Until 18 August, 11.30
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