The Weevil in the Biscuit
I could only manage to get to one of John Foster’s plays in his double bill about Robert Louis Stevenson at Lighthouse Poole on Thursday night 25th October.
In the end I chose “The Weevil in the Biscuit” and I was not disappointed. This depiction of the relationship between RLS and his American wife Fanny whilst he was in the process of writing “Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde” in their house at Westbourne was both charming and intense. This was a superb cameo play which owed its effect, not only to its excellent writing but also to the neat direction by Jon Nicholas slipping the characters into and out of soliloquy and dialogue with consummate ease and, not least, to the thoughtful and emotionally moving portrayal of the characters by Mark Freestone as Robert Louis Stevenson himself and Rebecca Legrand as Fanny.
Mark Freestone started with an enormous advantage – he bears an uncanny resemblance to RLS but that was only one incidental part of his portrayal which was driven by a complex of character traits from to frantic writer, sick man to childish, childlike husband. Rebecca Legrand’s character had a similar complex journey as she showed delight in her husband’s work and frustration at his inability to accomplish what he was capable of, even bursting into outright anger at one point. But it was the relationship between the two where in the play was at its most touching and powerful. Here were two people bonded by a common commitment yet maintaining a childlike innocence.
This was a dense, thoughtful play and, after it discarded the initial conceit of addressing the audience directly, it became truly compelling. I took away the picture of two adventurers through the world whose only real home was each other.