A year ago I wished for an opportunity to see Somerset Maugham’s The Circle on the stage and my wish came true last week. I had to go to Richmond during the evening rush hour (there are definitely better Tube lines at rush hour than the District Line) to see it, but I did.
I really like Somerset Maugham. He is unsentimental and cynic, but he can be incredibly funny and touching. “The Circle”, arguably the best of his comedies along with "The Constant Wife", is a play of history repeating itself. After deserting her husband and child 30 years prior for her husband’s best friend, Lady Kitty, played by Susan Hampshire in the version I saw, returns to her old home (with said lover) to finally meet her son. However, her daughter-in-law is also planning to run away with one of the house guests.
The whole play only makes sense in a time where divorce was something hard to get, but still says a lot about loveless love affairs. While Lady Kitty’s husband divorced her quickly, her lover’s wife didn’t so they couldn’t get married and had to spend 30 years in exile, swallowing infidelities and committing some, growing indifferent and in her case, fearing that he would leave her and she would have no means to support herself. Above all seeing each other never truly forgiving the other for the sacrifices they made in the name of a love that has long disappeared – as Lady Kitty says to her ex-husband, if she had her time again, she would have been unfaithful but would have never ran away.
The production I saw was a good one. The performances, mostly by actors I have seen at some stage or another on the small screen, were excellent and it made me sad that such a good production with some good reviews is highly unlikely to make it to the West End.