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Pleasure and Repentance

Stage and Television Today, 30th July 1981, Sue Wardlaw

There is some tale of the “gentler sex” in the RSC entertainment, ‘Pleasure and Repentance’, devised by Terry Hands, and described as a “light-hearted look at love”. Yet there was one actress among the first night performers who achieved the greatest heights of ungentleness, with a degree of delight in her material that was infectious. Even two of her fellow-performers, Michael Pennington and musician Adrian Harman seemed agreeably affected by her zest.

The lady in question was Susan Fleetwood, seemingly giving her all. Though never more than the extracts from poets, playwrights and other writers warranted. She was true and funny as the glad-eyes eight-year-old, Marjorie Fleming, wonderfully unemotional in the absurdity of the Rolling Stones song, ‘Satisfaction’, rendered without music; a no-nonsense Gwendolen Fairfax, skating through the unfinished business in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’; and many, many more, all tackled with superb polish.

Michael Pennington had an aptly haunted look while dealing with this formidable Miss Fairfax from this Wilde play, and tackled the romantic poets – Keats, Donne and Shakespeare – with persuasive intensity, besides being equally effective as that epitome of the unromantic, Mr Pooter, from ‘The Diary of a Nobody’.

Tony Church excelled in some of the more irreverent passages in an entertainment whose irreverence content is surprisingly and agreeably high. His Bernard Shaw verse on his mother being reduced to two small heaps by cremation struck a memorably eccentric note.

Adrian Harman’s guitar accompaniment was a superb background to the three actors’ amusing rendition of the romance of that “interesting pair” of middle-aged lovers from ‘Pickwick Papers’, given beautifully toned narrative by Tony Church.

Directed by Terry Hands, ‘Pleasure and Repentance’ is in repertoire with ‘The Hollow Crown’ for a three-month season, during which time the actors taking part will be drawn from a pool of eight performers, also including Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Alan Howard, Norman Rodway, Janet Suzman and Richard Pasco.

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