Be careful what you Wishfort – Findlay finds her way back to the Crucible stage

The Way Of The World,         , Author - William Congreve, Director - Lyndsey Turner, Designer - Naomi Wilkinson, Sheffield Theatre, 2012, Credit: Johan Persson/
The Way Of The World, , Author - William Congreve, Director - Lyndsey Turner, Designer - Naomi Wilkinson, Sheffield Theatre, 2012, Credit: Johan Persson/
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SOME actors are so prolific they almost forget just how many shows they’ve been in.

A prime example is Deborah Findlay, an award-winning actress currently starring in the Crucible’s exuberant and modern revival of The Way Of The World.

She is seemingly taken aback when shown her list of past triumphs, but remembers two of her previous Crucible shifts, however – in Child’s Play and nine years ago in The Crucible.

She was a baddie in Poirot and a goodie in Midsomer Murders. “Although you think I’m a baddie,” grins Deborah, also in films Truly Madly Deeply, Jack & Sarah and The End Of The Affair.

TV audiences will remember her most recently as Miss Tomkinson in hit BBC series Cranford, a very different character to Lady Wishfort in William Congreve’s Restoration comedy centred on conniving Mirabell and his would-be wife Millament.

“The whole story is based around this central family,” she explains. “Lady Wishfort gets to say who marries who, but as with a lot of women her age, my age, she’s fallen in love with a much younger man and that has turned round and bitten her.

“She’s compromised and there’s all sorts of intrigue. The more we look at it the more we realise really it’s all about money and who gets what at the end. The game is to get the person you love with the right amount of money.”

Although the play is 300 years old, little has changed in many senses. Lives are still driven by money to a great extent, so it lends itself to a more modern setting.

“Often when people say they’re going to set something modern you think ‘why’ but I really think with this one it works because there are so many parallels.

“It’s fashionable society. You only have to open the pages of Vogue or any glossy magazine and you see all the people at the parties and that’s how this set is.

“Plus it was written at a time when the economy was really dodgy. Just as now, is anybody sure where their next pound is coming from?”

The show reunites Deborah with two fellow former cast members from a triumphant production of The Glass Menagerie, including Sinead Matthews (Millament).

“It is good news when you know you are going to get on and enjoy working with people, a big bonus. Part of the process of rehearsal is getting to know everybody and if you’ve worked with somebody before you’re quids in.”

Director Lyndsey Turner has remained true to the original script.

“The language is very colourful, but understandable,” says Deborah. “I was going through some lines today and kept saying ‘that can’t be right because it sounds too modern’, but it is right.

“Obviously there are one or two references nobody would understand, about what was happening in the day, and Lyndsey felt right to take out, but nothing has been changed. The language is so fantastic and really funny; they call each other wonderful names.

“And Lady Wishfort is just such an amazing character, a sort of wonderful mixture of somebody who’s got it all but feels she’s got nothing. She is trying too hard to keep up with the young ones and can’t quite.”

A huge contrast to Cranford, then. “I don’t think Miss Tomkinson had any ideas of men at all.

“It was very much prim and proper, but it was lovely. We got asked a lot ‘why was it so successful and popular’. One of the things people came back with was that it presented a set of values where people cared for and looked out for each other. And that was very heart-warming.”

The Way Of The World continues until February 25.