facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

The Chalk Garden

First Published 12 June 2008, Last Updated 12 June 2008

If all good stories are based on truth, then Enid Bagnold’s The Chalk Garden is a prime example. So eccentric are the characters and so obscure the situation that this play could surely not have been invented if it did not spring from an occurrence in Bagnold’s own life.

Set in 1956, the play is a glimpse into the off-kilter family life of the elderly Mrs St Maugham and her precocious 16-year old granddaughter Laurel, who live with manservant Maitland in a manor house in rural Sussex. Both as melodramatic as each other – Laurel is particularly fond of screaming and setting fire to things – grandmother and granddaughter happily indulge each other’s eccentricities while the nervy, harried Maitland wallows in his status as much put-upon servant, running round the pair in a blood pressure-raising frenzy.

Into this situation comes the mysterious Miss Madrigal, who answers Mrs St Maugham’s advert for a companion for Laurel. Seemingly reserved and cautious, the newcomer nevertheless wins over the household with her own slightly oddball habits and her impassioned knowledge of the manor house garden, which is the unseen playground for both grandmother and granddaughter. Miss Madrigal swiftly takes charge in this unstructured household, taming Laurel and the garden and earning the nickname ‘boss’ by standing up to the much talked about but never seen bullish butler Mr Pinkbell. But when Mrs St Maugham’s judge friend comes to dinner, Miss Madrigal’s past comes back to impinge on her present.

Bagnold’s rich development of her characters means we gain an insight into their lives that reaches far beyond this little excerpt. Penelope Wilton as Miss Madrigal and Margaret Tyzack as Mrs St Maugham both have an expressive delivery that makes the most of Bagnold’s witty and highly entertaining script. As forceful and strong as each other – at least on the surface – the relationship between the pair develops into one of mutual need and understanding.

Felicity Jones captures the unruly and attention-seeking nature of young Laurel, characteristics nurtured by her grandmother, who, selfishly, would keep Laurel living with her rather than allow her to return to live with Olivia (Suzanne Burden), Laurel’s recently-remarried mother. Jamie Glover completes the household as Maitland, who, with his phobia of criticism and obsession with murderesses, is as bizarrely eccentric as the people he serves.

CB

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.