Sir Arthur Wing Pinero's popular nineteenth century melodrama The Second Mrs Tanqueray has returned to the stage, reviving themes of sexual double standards and Victorian social conventions.
Tipping his hat to Ibsen, Pinero highlights the consequences of being a woman of the world in a patriarchal society, but also allows for a hearty dose of comedy before the tragic events begin to unfold.
Amongst a scattering of elegant stage props, the cast of The Second Mrs Tanqueray provide an intimate performance which is captivating from beginning to end. Laura Michelle Kelly plays the feisty and seductive Paula, who becomes the second wife of Aubrey Tanqueray (James Wilby) and witnesses the consequential mutterings of disapproval within her husband's social circle. Motivated by anxiety about her scandalous past as well as a fear of rejection, Paula begins to cause strains within her new marriage as she grows increasingly jealous of Aubrey's saint-like daughter, Ellean (Rona Morison). Stephen Unwin's production is commendable for its portrayal of the dramatic tension in the final scenes, which resonates throughout the theatre making the play entirely well-rounded and enjoyable.
Though Pinero's nineteenth century melodrama has been somewhat overlooked in recent years, it is still well-deserving of its status as periodical milestone, and flawlessly conveys the rigid and damning social conventions of Victorian England. The Second Mrs Tanqueray is worth seeing, especially with such modestly priced tickets.