J M Barrie’s bittersweet romcom ‘Quality Street’ is an absolute treat

Quality in abundance along with deceit and deception plus plenty of fun and frolics.

There are so many twists and turns to keep up with that you become totally absorbed into the trials and tribulations of lost love which eventually is rediscovered.

Northern Broadside’s production of “Quality Street”, at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, has so much to offer from the odd, quaint coupling of sisters Phoebe and Susan Throssell, perfectly cast and marvellously portrayed by Jessica Baglow and Louisa-May Parker, to Phoebe’s majestically and often misguided suitor Valentine Brown (Dario Coates) and the siblings’ devoted maid Patty (Claire Hackett).

Director Laurie Sansom has uniquely brought J M Barrie’s deliciously classic farce up to date with creative puppetry along with commentary from the Quality Street™ factory workers, whose own stories of hapless romance and growing old disgracefully give the show a playful Yorkshire twist.

It is set during the Napoleonic Wars between 1803 and 1815 and Phoebe is hoping that her friendship with the dashing Mr Brown in their quaint northern town has repercussions of wedded bliss.

But that’s not to be as he enlists into the army and goes off to fight saying that he would be “half the man” if he stayed at home only leaving a slight hint of love behind for the woman he left behind and asking her to write to him with all the “stirring” news of Quality Street.

Fast forward 10 years and he returns, minus a hand, where he finds Phoebe and Susan running a school for unruly children.

Mr Brown is now a captain and the look of disappointment on his face when he greets a more mature, less glamorous Phoebe, spurs the determined heroine into action. She changes her persona to be become the wild and sparkling Miss Lily, a younger alter-ego who soon entraps the clueless captain as she captures the attention of all the men folk.

As their romance is rekindled, can she juggle both personas? Or will her deception scandalise the town and wreck any future with the man she loves?

It all adds up to a wonderfully enchanting and humorous play, which was written by Barrie years before his now much-loved “Peter Pan”, and was so well known in its day that it gave its name to the UK’s most popular chocolates, made in Halifax since 1936.

“Quality Street” continues at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds for the rest of the week until Saturday, March 14.

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