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Review: Quality Street @ Crucible Theatre

Northern Broadsides’ adaptation of J. M. Barrie’s 1901 play is a delightful way to spend an evening at the theatre, brimming with engaging performances and a heartwarming story containing plenty of laughs.

The play follows the story of Phoebe Throssel, a young woman whose budding love affair with the dashing Valentine Brown is cut short when the latter enlists in the army. This leaves the main character both heartbroken and in dire financial straits, forcing Phoebe to shun her bubbly personality and ringleted hair to become a stern, weary schoolmistress in order to make ends meet.

Upon Captain Valentine’s return, he is outwardly dismayed with the new, less exciting version of Phoebe presented to him. Understandably scorned by this reaction, Phoebe devises a plan to trick her old love interest. She reverts back to her former, more boisterous character but under the guise of a fictitious niece, Livvy, who gladly attends the local ball and dances and flirts to her heart’s content in full view of the initially enamoured captain. What could go wrong, eh?

Paula Lane is faultless in her portrayal of Phoebe, shifting impressively between heightened states of turmoil, glee and fury – sometimes in the space of one scene! One particularly heated exchange with Valentine (played by Aron Julius) towards the denouement is positively electric and the on-stage chemistry between the pair is a winning one.

The supporting cast were all superb – with a lot of added comedic value adeptly provided by Alex Moran and Jamie Smelt as hapless soldiers and equally hapless (and slightly terrifying) puppet children – but special mention has to go to Louisa May-Parker, who is incredibly charming as Susan’s dependable sister cast into a seemingly perpetual state of anxiety by her sibling’s antics.

While Quality Street may be a classic tale, this adaptation breathes new life into it by framing the whole production as a play within a play, which is being watched by workers of the current Quality Street factory in Halifax. They are introduced to the audience while shifting around props at the end of scenes, humorously discussing what they’ve seen on stage and making parallels with modern-day conventions around love.

Combining equal amounts of poignancy and comedy, the play comments on the changing roles of women in society, the expectations of femininity and the longing for lost youth. It ultimately encourages viewers to question societal norms and embrace their authentic selves. Something we can all get behind.

4/5

Quality Street runs at Sheffield Theatres until Sat 27th May. 

 




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