Waste Review 1997

Thursday, 27 March, 1997

“Waste” is a political play about up coming politician Henry Trebell (Michael Pennington) who’s career is ruined after having an affair with Amy O’Connell ( Felicity Kendal) who gets pregnant by him. After a tragedy, his affair is discovered by his colleagues, and to save his career, they try to find ways to cover it up. But first they have to persuade Amy O’Connell’s husband, Justin O’Connell (Greg Hicks) to keep quite about the affair.

The drama could certainly relate to politics today, as it gets across the consequences and the high price that sometimes has to paid when an affair with a married woman is discovered.

The play is a little slow and only really begins to gain any momentum after the interval, after the affair is discovered. However there are some fine performances from the cast. Felicity Kendal, as expected, is marvellous playing Amy O’ Connell, the married woman who is horrified to be pregnant, not because it's not her husband's but because she has never wanted children! Felicity has appeared in many Peter Hall productions including “An Absolute Turkey at the old Globe theatre and “Mind Millie For Me” at the Haymarket.

Michael Pennington is very convincing as the politician caught in the trappings of scandal. Playing his sister ‘Frances Trebell’, is Anna Carteret, a talented actress who was recently in “An Ideal Husband” at the Haymarket and on Broadway.

It was also great to see Denis Quilley, a fine actor who has natural ability that mesmerises you., a lot like Michael Gambon. Quilley plays ‘Cyril Horsham’, the leader of the party who has to decide what to do with ‘Trebell ‘ after the affair is discovered.

Even though there is a fine cast and superb acting I did find the play a little too slow , but nevertheless worth seeing if only for the great acting.

(Darren Dalglish)

A doomed affair, a ruined political career, a woman's death, and a suicide: all refer to title of "Waste," now being played in repertory by the Peter Hall Company at the Old Vic. Harley Granville Barker's biting look at politics in the '20's still makes perfect viewing for this election year, as the play plots the inevitable downfall of independent MP Trebell. As played by Michael Pennington, Trebell is something of a cold fish, a 50ish bachelor whose only passion is a bill to disestablish the Church of England which he is trying to steer through parliament. The Conservatives have craftily coopted the bill in a bid to upstage the ascending Labour party. Trebell is (seemingly) distracted momentarily when he becomes involved with the unhappily married Amy O'Connell (Felicity Kendal) at a house party. To Trebell, the affair is forgotten as soon as the weekend is over. However, Amy comes back into his life revealing she is pregnant. An abortion and her resulting death follow. In the face of scandal, the Conservatives quickly and cleanly break their ties with Trebell.

The supporting performances are fine, particularly David Yelland and Denis Quilley as the party leader. Pennington and Kendal are fire and ice in their final confrontational scene together. Kendal's Amy O'Connell is a wonderful creation, strong-willed yet vulnerable in her desperate and fatal attempts to control her destiny. Pennington, somewhat resembling an underweight Churchill, shows that underneath that flinty gaze and steely exterior, there is...a steely interior. Trebell remains a rather unsympathetic character. This is a talky evening, but the dialogue fairly crackles and director Peter Hall keeps things at a nice clip. The machinations of the party bosses are fascinating as they coldly determine Trebell's fate over cigars. Not much emotion here apart from Kendal's moving ouburst at in Act I. It is all an insightful look at politics, scandal, and the press, but rather clinical.

(Nancy A Phillips)

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