The main thing to take away from this play, without a doubt, was a new found appreciation for floristry (or, as the characters so vehemently insist – flower decoration). 1930’s London gives way to the surprisingly fruitful life of a successful flower decorator in her prime, at the height of the worldwide economic freefall. A tale with lust, and a tale of love and infidelity, Storm in a Flower Vase explores the blossoming life of the ever-wonderful Constance Spry, and the art of flower arranging.
At first glance, the story leaves little thirst for more, but I was pleasantly taken aback with how invested I became in these people as the story developed. These characters are realized in such a way that you feel as if the story is unwinding right in front of you, as if you are a fly on the wall in Spry’s life. Performed with such a sincere quality, these brilliant stories of each individual character feel incredibly real, for want of a better word. The ability to delve into these people’s lives in such detail and care is only possessed by such a connected cast that bring forward a chemistry between actors that is truly beautiful to watch unfold on stage. Such organic characterization of seemingly boring and two-dimensional characters – the unfaithful husband, the workaholic wife and her dutiful confidant best friend, the sultry secretary – invites you to watch a plot arc that you feel invested and interested in.
With the script, however, I find that some of the supposed ‘laugh out loud’ jokes fell, personally, on deaf ears. Perhaps, for such a young age, the collective humour and life experiences of the previous generation – the generation featured in this performance – appeals much less to me as it does to them. These jokes, however, are not a quintessential part of the drama, and supply little more than comedic relief to some tension between characters later on in the performance. Storm in a Flower Vase is a delightful myriad of British-isms, with the classic image of 1930’s London captured perfectly, without glorifying or satirising the dialect or interaction with one another.
Morgan Large’s work with the lights and sound work as a unit instead of three separate elements contributes wonderfully to the story, and compliments the scene at hand, instead of overpowering it. Effects like lighting and sound, today, are so easily used as a spectacle, a focal point, instead of being used to work with the actors instead of next to them, as a different part in the story. The flower work, particularly, invokes a newfound appreciation in me. As a hay fever sufferer, I’ve never been at the behest of such a petite beauty of flower decoration without the imminent fear of needing to sneeze or rub my eyes. I feel that the floral decorations are a character within the play itself. Such splendour breathes life into an otherwise blank stage arrangement. Vivid spatters of violet and red and white and green paint the blank canvas of the white washed setting, and entrap the audience in this exquisite beautiful world that we’ve been invited into.
Such a title, in contrast, feels… unsuited upon revisiting it. At times, the show is slow paced, to the point where the word ‘storm’ leaves a wanting from the crowd. With reflection, however, I feel like this unfortunate romance features the calm before the storm, instead of the storm itself.
- By Anton Burge
- Directed by Alan Strachan
- Produced by Ann Pinnington
- Cast Includes: Penny Downie, Christopher Ravenscroft, Sally George, Sheila Ruskin, Carolyn Backhouse, and Carol Royle
- Arts Theatre
- Until 12th October 2013
- Time: 19:30
- Review by Hannah Ross
- 23d September 2013