Writer: Anton Burge
Director: Alan Strachan
Reviewer: Elizabeth Vile
Storm in a Flower Vase is a detailed and interesting portrayal of the life of Constance Spry. By focusing on just a few years of Spry’s life (1932-36) Anton Burge has written a tender but revealing play about a very interesting and dynamic woman. Interlaced with a selection of Spry’s talks on flowers to various audiences the story is told chronologically and focuses mainly on the personal life of Spry with her business success constantly being referred to but always in the background.
Penny Downie as Constance Spry was a forceful and determined character who did everything in a wholehearted way, while hiding a lonely and insecure heart. Downie was engaging and fully inhabited her character which was vital as she barely left the stage during the whole two acts. Ably supporting her were her long suffering work and business colleagues played confidently by Sheila Ruskin as Rosemary Hume, Sally George as Val Pirie &Carol Royle as Syrie Maughan. These three loyal, hardworking and at times undervalued people allowed Spry to be the creative force behind the business and to go off on ‘adventures’ when the whim took her. Although this working relationship was very much complicated by Pirie having a long term affair with Spry’s ‘husband’ Shav. Christopher Ravenscroft’s understated performance of Shav was touching but at times weak in comparison to the confidence and physicality of the other characters.
The set was used effectively and the glass ceiling idea for the rooms was a clear and effective link to the flower business and to the mounds of flowers and plants that adorned the shop scenes. Most of the music used fitted well although the change between obviously period music to a more contemporary choice jarred at times.
The story, although very clear at the beginning, seemed to lose its crispness early in Act 2. The final scene between Spry and her lover Gluck (performed with a strong intensity by Carolyn Bachouse) demonstrated this as some audience members were unsure of the reasons behind their argument or of the true intent of Gluck. This weakened the emotional impact of the scene. Although by the end the crispness and emotional impact of the piece was back on track and once again powerful.
This production is engaging, well crafted, and acted. The story gives you a detailed, loving and yet honest portrayal of a strong and creative woman fighting against the restraints of her society while depending on her friends and her beloved flowers for support in times of need.