Stoppard could be accused of being facetious when selecting his characters’ monikers. Failed inventor George is anything but living the life of Riley unless you count his meagre, humiliating handouts from daughter Linda. Neither is long suffering wife Persephone treated like a Greek goddess for her dedication and support. Harry down the pub is certainly Flash however and director Ruth Deller is certainly Able, stepping in as a cameo seaman at the last minute.
George and Linda share a similar naivety in their belief of “the one”. George is sure, perhaps owing to the weight of expectation on a 1960s breadwinner, that his latest discovery will make his family rich. Linda thinks her latest man will love her. Frank Badger inspires pathos as George and is a tragic figure. Sarah Regan’s Linda can blame youth for her relationships mistakes however.
George is at home in the pub. His missed vocation as thinker and philosopher is evident from his persuasive rhetoric. George misses the cruel irony of Phil Ashton’s Harry though, who meets his double gummed envelope invention with “first the wheel, now this!” A subsequent telling scene, which Badger handles well, is the fading of the pub characters and a spotlighted Riley opining his domestic troubles.
Jan Wright is terrific as Riley’s wife, Persephone. Her acceptance of her husband’s plight is typified by the amusing line, “If he was going to be a failure anyway, he was better off failing at something he wanted to succeed at”