The White Carnation: Theatre review - 'A strongly acted revival'

Finborough Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

R C Sherriff is exclusively associated these days with Journey's End but now Knight Mantell directs this intriguing and strongly acted revival of a rarity from the bulging back catalogue.

It's Christmas Eve 1951 and after bidding farewell to his party guests, prosperous stockbroker John Greenwood gets locked out his house and shunted into a parallel 1951 where it emerges that he and his friends had been blown to bits by a flying bomb at the equivalent Yuletide celebration in 1944 and that the council has just brought the derelict property for redevelopment.

Aden Gillett gives a commanding portrayal of an impatient, self-made man turned sceptical and challengingly solid ghost and the play has quirky, charming fun at the expense of affronted British officialdom and its struggles to classify and deport Greenwood as an illegal alien. 

Benjamin Whitrow is delicious as the dithering vicar who's unsure about whether a spook can remain C of E. But Sherriff's treatment of the more haunting aspects of the piece (the ways in which this alternative reality offers Greenwood a perspective from which to view his human failings as a finance-obsessed, neglectful husband) feels perfunctory — like poor man's J B Priestley.  

To December 21; 0844 847 1652