Afternoon Men

These scenes from Anthony Powell's 1931 novel arranged for the stage by Riccardo Aragno revive memory and yield the pleasure of comparison but it is doubtful if they can take hold as a play in the year 1963. The novel cleverly reflected a very small section of London society in its day. The sparkle had left the parties of the 'twenties, whose gaiety had gone rather sour.

Flatness and sourness pervaded the stage adaptation but the trite remarks of the characters conveyed a good deal of humour. Mr. Powell's dull young men appeared much more interesting on the stage but the girls, whose fascination the novel-reader willingly took for granted, were a disappointment. It has to be borne in mind that originally the story was one of men, and the women were presented from the men's point of view as objects of desire or simply as objects. Whenever they came alive they seemed to be looking after No.1. In the play, the cool, remote Susan Nunnery is made to suffer visibly as a butterfly unable to withstand the glitter of affluence, and her surrender is made an emotional climax.

Atwater was well played by James Fox, who gave an attractive performance and at the same time conveyed the idea of a rather dim young man leading a rather dull life. Similar success was achieved by Peter Bowles, in whose hands the dull, stingy and unsuccessful Pringle was very amusing. Jeremy Kemp neatly hit off Barlow and Alan Howard scored in Fotheringham's vinous monologue on the subject of friendship. Indeed, the men were good. And the dull girls came to life, Pauline Boty doing well as Lola, and June Cunningham as Sophy.

Michael Young's all-purpose setting suggested a school gymnasium but it had the advantages of wide back window, and stairs. Supers "twisting" in the Club were an anachronistic irritant.


Theatre World, October 1963.

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