THEATRE / On theatre

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When Nora When Harry Met Sally Ephron read Pride and Prejudice as a teenager, she thought the title referred simply to Darcy. The heroine, after all, was surely spotless. More mature readings reveal the truth of the matter. By the end of the book, both Lizzie and Darcy are chastened, more sensitive and a good deal wiser. The same can be said of the protagonists of Henry Arthur Jones's The Case of Rebellious Susan, which returns to the Orange Tree after a runaway success last March.

Director Auriol Smith had an immediate reaction to it on first reading. 'The writing is very elegant, it has tremendous heart and it's very funny. And it was totally forgotten.'

Originally performed in 1894, it examines society's double standards with regard to women, where a wife is expected to stand by an adulterous husband but not vice versa. Susan (Sarah-Jane Fenton, right) meets a young man with whom she once had an affair and asks: 'You haven't told anybody? You haven't boasted to any of your men friends? I should kill myself if anyone knew.' Actor-manager Charles Wyndham was so appalled at the idea of an adulterous wife that he cut the lines. Jones fought him, and lost.

Auriol Smith sees it as a cross between Wilde and Shaw, but the closest comparison she can think of is surprising. 'It's like one of Ayckbourn's darker plays. After all, Jones himself described it as a tragedy dressed up as a comedy.'

'The Case of Rebellious Susan' opens tomorrow at the Orange Tree, 1 Clarence St, Richmond (081-940 3633)

(Photograph omitted)

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