Written by Jerome K. Jerome in 1900 and first performed in 1908, The Passing Of The Third Floor Back is the tale of a mysterious traveller (Alexander Knox) who persuades folks of all classes into becoming their better selves. Directed by Jonny Kelly, the play is set in a Victorian boarding house and follows the fickle and scandalous relationships between the staff and tenants. The star of the show is Set and Costume designer, Jasmine Swan, with a decadent, cosy set draped in rich golds and bronzes. This, teamed with the delightful sounds of Lizzie Faber's harp, provides a classical and somewhat festive atmosphere. Swan expertly designed the exquisitely classy costumes that provide clear visual characterisation, from morbid and macabre to frilly and frivolous. Caroline Wildi also shows nicely detailed movements as the shrewd Mrs Tompkins with dainty, delicate hand movements.
There are comical moments planted within the piece that mainly stem from powerhouse Paddy Navin, who provides a rounded performance as the complicated and eccentric Miss Kite. The rhythms of the characters weave together pleasantly in the first act, such as Ella Dunlop as the sprightly young maid paired with the slower and more centered Anna Mottram. This unfortunately does not carry for the second half, with the predictable and repetitive pacing of each character having their moment with the mysterious visitor.
A huge positive is that there is an abundance of strong and interesting women on the Finborough stage with this piece - hurrah! There are mild feminist tones, with a few poignant lines from the female characters, although not enough for it to feel particularly relevant. With themes of mild theft and dishonesty within the story, the stakes are generally not very high in regards to the redemption of the characters. Despite being wonderfully acted and providing lighthearted entertainment, my biggest issue with this piece is why now? Why this piece? What is it offering to the world? - Faye Butler