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Swimming At The Ritz, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, March 15
The measure of Felicity Dean’s superb performance as socialite Pamela Churchill-Harriman in Swimming At The Ritz was that she evoked sympathy for a women whose extravagance saw her blow 115 million dollars.
Having gone through a huge inheritance and trust fund for the Harriman grandchildren, she is being sued for 40 million dollars.
Yet Pamela, former daughter- in-law of Winston Churchill and United States ambassador to France, still resides in the Paris Ritz while an inventory is made of her possessions for a Christie’s auction.
Dean injected the right amount of irony and humour as she talked directly to the audience at the Devonshire Park Theatre.
Jos Vantyler, the other actor in Charles Leipart’s two-handed play, was not given the same scope to show off his full talent.
Vantyler was required to speak pidgin English as Italian valet Pietra, who is bored with Pamela’s stories of her relationships with rich and influential husbands and lovers.
The play could have been more dramatic – and amusing – if his character had been less subservient.
Director Roland Jaquarello faithfully interpreted Leipart’s script, which projects Pamela’s belief that life is all about sinking or swimming. But her only concession to her disastrous financial situation is to drink Moét instead of Dom Pérignon.
Kenneth Mellor’s [set designer] excellent Ritz suite backdrop helped achieve the necessary believability for the play.
Pamela sticks to her routine of going for a swim while her Picasso and Renoir paitings are sold off.