Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Monty is a man of some means, from the 1920’s. Spying a woman of some other means, Gracie, at a party he decides to write, with perpetual hope, that she would consent to a proper relationship. What is started up is proper correspondence between them that sends him into raptures and despair in equal measure whist his butler, Lucian, brings the post on his tray.
This is a gentile half hour or so, of a show from a time when cads were cads, and you could rely on a Bunbury opportunity or thrice to set yourself out into the world. And set to the stage by a young actor who has the dashing looks, but also the clear understanding of what this type of role demands. It is well poised and well written with plenty to admire from a performer who knows how to hold a pause and keep on the right side of the furniture.
But it is far more than that. Brookes gives Monty that air of superiority and that feeling of vulnerability which evokes Wodehouse and Campion in equal measure. It is a very crafted performance.
Where it does struggle a little is in its staging and use of Lucian as a minor character. This is a shame as the issue with the bulb in the lamp showed some fine comic timing. Combined with the business hen Monty pronounced hope that she responds soon, being rewarded with a gloved hand and the epistle swiftly returned, shows an understanding of what comedy needs to thrive. At present we have Lucian, though silent giving us a presence which allows some commentary upon the actions and indeed the sanity of our principal. But having to enter and leave from an awkwardly placed screen which hampers the staging means that it can be awkward. Often directorially we may not need to see Lucian as often. Once the character is established, we can watch his influence and his indulgences towards his young charge, with a well-chosen and expressive gloved hand making an occasional appearance instead of the full man in morning suit.
Theatrically it had all the right bells and whistles in terms of sound, lighting and technical effects. Of course, a recently received letter will be able to be read and memorised, so we can accept the theatricality of it all, and the suspension of disbelief, because of the script.
Love, Monty is really rather splendid, nay one may go so far as to describe it as damn fine. It has all that you would expect in terms of social expectations and the subtleties are not sacrificed for cheap jibes or populist jokes. It sets our young actor quite the task, and he has risen to make the performance one which bristles with energy and makes me feel very glad that I stumbled upon this – gems can be found when you look hard enough.