The Circle by Somerset Maugham.

The Circle Production photos taken on 29th April 2023 at the Orange Tree Theatre in London Director: Tom Littler Designer: Louie Whitemore Lightening: Chris McDonnell Cast: Jane Asher, Pete Ashmore, Clive Francis, Nicholas Le Prevost, Chirag Benedict Lobo, Olivia Vinall, Robert Maskell

Artistic Director Tom Littler’s first production The Circle is now performing at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. The round Theatre layout offers challenges for a director and producer with setting the stage to allow an almost 360-degree visibility to the entire audience. However, after last night’s press night, I felt this has been achieved perfectly.

Jane Asher stars in The Circle playing the disgraced Lady Catherine Champion-Cheney who’s invited to stay in the Country estate owned by her estranged son of thirty years Armold Champion-Cheney (Pete Ashmore) and his wife Elizabeth Champion-Cheney (Olivia Vinall). Reunions after this many years are undoubtedly going to have conflict.

Lord Hughie Porteous (Nicholas le Prevost) dry quick witted humour is an absolute “hoot” and although he appeared grumpy at times I could see the spark of life which would have enticed Lady Catherine away from her former husband Clive Champion-Cheney (Clive Francis).

Somerset Maugham’s story The Circle first arrived on the stage in 1921. Some of the outdated ideals and attitudes from that era no longer exist in modern-day England. However, reading the experiences and career path Muughm had taken the rich tapestry of characters would have undoubtedly crossed his path during his lifetime.

Quintessential Englishness and a reminder of colonial days are reawakened within this adaptation of The Circle. Littler has created a respectful and absorbing production which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Watching the Bridge card game fascinated me. I discovered that after talking to Littler the entire game is timed to perfection, and each card is accurately played during the narration by the cast involved. The scene is perfectly delivered, and it was hard to believe that you weren’t watching a real game of cards.

There’s nothing to dislike or criticize about The Circle, and it certainly has an established, acclaimed cast who has a powerful onstage chemistry. For a taste of days gone by Englishness, I highly recommend putting this on your “to watch” list.

For further information on The Circle and future productions at the Orange Tree Theatre, please use the link below.

Photo credit Ellie Kurttz

Five Stars.


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