Approved by ATG's PR & Communications Officer, David Bradbury
As horses and their jockeys thunder past the winning post just below us, the actors field questions from the assembled press pack. We’re at Brighton Race Course, perched high above the sea on the South Downs, for the launch of Theatre Royal Brighton Productions’ inaugural production of Dandy Dick, playing at Richmond Theatre from Tuesday 10 to Saturday 14 July. The actors in question are Nicholas Le Prevost and Patricia Hodge, two of our most distinguished and erstwhile stars: Le Prevost’s many stage credits include an Olivier-nominated turn in My Fair Lady at the National Theatre, and a recent appearance alongside Keira Knightley in The Misanthrope in the West End. Patricia Hodge’s glittering career spans television, theatre, and film, including her unforgettable portrayal of middle-aged, middle-class motherhood in the recent hit sitcom Miranda.
Written in 1887, seven years before Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Arthur Wing Pinero’s Dandy Dick anticipates the later work’s playful attack on the establishment. The Right Reverend Augustin Jedd (played by Nicholas Le Provost) embodies everything we’ve come to recognise about up-tight Victorian culture – including a puritanical distaste for gambling - until being led astray by his looser-living sister Georgiana (Patricia Hodge). 'We’re so enlightened,' Hodge reflects from behind a low-key but glamorous pair of sunglasses. 'It’s difficult to imagine what it was like when doors were more closed, how difficult it was to go out on a limb and poke fun at the church. We have to put on a pair of glasses to view the Victorian era.' In the play, the Reverend ends up gambling his savings on his sister’s racehorse (called, if you hadn’t already guessed, Dandy Dick) in order to raise money for a new church steeple. Chaos, of the most enjoyable kind, ensues. Le Provost agrees about the strictures of the Victorian period: 'It was an incredibly close, human, animal existence, and people like the Dean did everything they could to separate themselves from that. Pinero exposes the hypocrisy of the church. He turns society on its head.'
Le Provost is no stranger to Richmond, having lived on Kingston Hill for many years. His fondness for the area, despite no longer being a resident, is difficult to hide: 'I love the journey from Waterloo to Richmond. That rattling, shaking drift through Southwest London, peering into people’s back gardens. It’s romantic.' His co-star Hodge is equally enthusiastic, expressing her pleasure that, on the first stop of a national tour, Dandy Dick will be hanging its hat in TW9: 'Richmond’s beautiful. A lovely theatre to play.'
After a few more questions it’s time for Theatre Royal Brighton’s sponsored race, the keenly anticipated Dandy Dick Fillies’ Handicap Stakes. Journalists and company members jostle on the balcony gossiping about their bets. Patricia Hodge has agreed to judge the pre-race Best Dressed Horse Competition, and runs her eye over the field from the middle of the parade ring as the horses are led round by their grooms. Her favourite, an impressive brown filly called Methayel, turns out to be the favourite of the race too, and receives the somewhat unfair advantage of a £5 bet from our leading lady. No surprises, then, when twenty minutes later Methayel herself comes tearing past the winning post way ahead of the field, saluted by a triumphant flourish of Dandy Dick t-shirts.