Tom and Viv


23rd October 2015


Marlborough Dramatic Club


Brentwood School Theatre

Type of Production



Vernon Keeble-Watson


Author: Tessa Davies

I always enjoy my visits to Marlborough because I can be sure of top quality, good looking, productions.  So I was baffled to be confronted by an open, bare stage with minimal furniture.  Then I looked at the programme and saw that there were 13 scenes in each half of the play!  Now, normally, that would ring alarm bells for me, but I trust Marlborough and they did not disappoint.

Performed in a series of vignettes, the play charts the love story of T S Eliot and his wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood.  Starting with their early encounter in 1915 the play moved through the traumatic events of their life together until Vivienne’s death in 1947.

Vivienne, played with great skill and empathy by Sara Thompson, starts off as bright but brittle ingénue with a thirst for life and a burden of mental imbalance that was to manifest itself more as the play moved along.  Sara’s interpretation was mesmerising to watch.  She has clearly made a study of Vivienne and the way she portrayed her deterioration to the downtrodden woman at the end of the play was simply outstanding.

Tim Murphy, playing TS (Tom) Eliot maintained a reasonable American accent all the way through the play and portrayed the, often bemused and bewildered, Tom extremely well.  I was, however, a little confused by his reappearance as the American doctor at the end. I was expecting some sort of denouement that just didn’t happen!  I asked if there was a specific reason for this and I was told that the author had specifically stated that the same actor was to play both parts.  In which case I understand why the Director did so but the author didn’t quite get the text right to make clear his intentions.

Shelagh White was terrific as the matriarchal Rose Haigh-Wood, clearly displaying the attitude of a mother who cares deeply for her daughter but must still uphold the dignities of her position in society.  Vikki luck (Louise Purden) Craig Whitney (Viv’s erstwhile brother Maurice) Keith Morgan (father Charles Haigh-Wood) Paul Bell (William Janes) Louise O’Connor (Barrister and clerk) completed the cast. 

Given that I am used to seeing a beautifully built and dressed set from this company; the bare setting used for this play was something completely different but it really worked well and the smooth and calm way the cast made the transitions and used the furniture was very cleverly thought out.

As always, the costumes, makeup and hair were spot on, the back stage crew continue to make the onstage cast look good and their attention to detail is legendary.

A very thought provoking production that made me want to learn more about the history of this tragic couple.  We continue to enjoy our visits to Marlborough’s productions and look forward to the next!