Nice sets, shame about the script

Agnes Colander. Ustinov Studio, Bath

Stiff, awkward and a period piece that’s been left behind by events. Harley Granville Barker’s 1900 play Agnes Colander is a story of a woman trying to find herself in a society where women don’t even have the vote. Directed by Trevor Nunn, the titular character Agnes is difficult to like and her male admirers less so. Whether it’s the dialogue which at times made little sense and felt contrived in places or the idea that that an upper middle class woman with servants could hold the attention of an audience as she pontificates upon her life it is difficult to decide. It was probably the script.

The sets by Rob Jones were brilliant – an artist’s studio and a French seaside villa – and lighting (Paul Pyant) and sound (Fergus O’Hare) were exceptional. Despite being revised by Richard Nelson the play felt like a first draft which needed to be rethought or even filed away in a drawer (which it was). Left unproduced for a century time hasn’t served the play well. But as an insight into how a young man saw the world through a woman’s eyes in 1900 it succeeds as a sort of playwright’s history lesson.

Harry Mottram

The play continues at Bath’s Ustinov Studio until April 14, 2018.

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