On Wednesday night, Dangerous To Know opened our doors to the public for the first performance in our run of The Dissolution of Percy and, as is always nerve-wracking, we invited press and reviewers to tell us what they thought of our work!
Now Frank Hill, a reviewer for RemoteGoat, has delivered, and we are absolutely thrilled.
Under the heading “Gripping, original Branwell Brontë drama”, he writes:
“There’s a painting of the Brontë sisters, posed woodenly around a small table, with a figure standing behind them smeared out of all recognition. This figure was the artist himself, their brother Branwell, who had defaced his own image in some bout of self-loathing. As a student I was fascinated by this ghost-like image hovering ominously in the background, so was particularly interested to see a new play at The Kings Arms, Salford where Branwell takes centre stage.
I knew Caroline Lamb’s drama (‘The Dissolution of Percy’) was going to be interesting when one of the sister’s asked where her powder was. Instead of entering with objects from her boudoir she came onstage carrying a gun. The material in question was gunpowder. That’s when I realised this was going to be an unusual perspective on the Brontë women and their much-neglected-by-history brother.
The play began at an unusually stable period in Branwell’s life when, thanks to the efforts of his sisters, he had obtained a post as tutor to the Robinson’s family’s son. All seemed well, but it soon became clear that he had not forsaken his spendthrift, drunken ways and stories of his behaviour reached the ears of Mr. Robinson. Although not one to smooth over troubled waters, Branwell managed to retain his position, only to then embark on an affair with the mistress of the house, Lydia.
Branwell was a dreamer, trapped in the fantasies of childhood stories and a great admirer of Lord Byron. But without that poet’s panache and fame, being ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ could be disastrous. Detached from reality, narcissistic, and drawn to alcohol and laudanum, it became the task of his sisters to save Branwell from himself. But had he already reached the point of no return?
The play is about unfulfilled ambition, self denial and desire. It’s well written and tightly structured with fine performances (I’m sure the few occasions when actors spoke over each others lines will soon be ironed out).
Alison Flevill, Marcella Hazell and Caroline Lamb brought Jane (Ed. read “Emily”) , Anne and Charlotte vividly to life and Jane Allighan’s sensitive portrayal of Lydia showed a character desperate to survive in a world where wealth and poverty were frighteningly close neighbours – particularly for women in Victorian England.
Sean Fitton provided solid support with characters ranging from Rev. Brontë to Branwell’s drinking partner John.
But the play stands or falls on the portrayal of Branwell himself, and Sam Redway gave a riveting performance as the vulnerable, selfish, frustrating artist. To give just one example of his skill – I have seen some terrible interpretations of drunkenness on stage – by some renowned actors. It’s extremely difficult to do well and Sam managed to pitch it perfectly, getting the nuances just right. A great performance throughout, and director Helen Parry must take credit for that.
An unusual subject then, focussing on characters usually ignored by history and thereby also creating a new perspective on the famous sisters themselves. Excellent.”
Thank you, Frank! It’s wonderful to get this type of feedback for an inaugural production. We hope our work continues to impress for the rest of the run, and for the play’s future life!
If you would like tickets to the production, we highly recommend booking in advance via the link below.