Dandy Dick by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero

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BBC Radio 7, 12 December 2009
John Tydeman's version of Pinero's farce was one of those productions the BBC seem particularly good at - a fast-moving comedy replete with memorable performances from an expert cast. Alec McCowen was the Dean - a sanctimonious old soul with a touching concern for his daughters Salome (Susan Kidd) and Sheba (Melinda Walker), but with little idea how to manage them. He seemed like a typical 'man of the cloth' with a fruity, high-pitched tone and a holier-than-thou manner reminiscent of the late Derek Nimmo in the 1960s comedy All Gas and Gaiters. However the Dean also had a past which he was anxious to conceal - while a university student he had revealed a more than passing interest in horse racing. Despite his best efforts, his past came to haunt him as the action unfolded. As his sister Georgiana (more popularly known as George), Patricia Routledge was full of vim and vigour; having spent her whole life as a racehorse trainer using the name George Tidd, she had got it into her head that she was more of a man than a woman. Hence her jolly hockey-sticks manner, which contrasted starkly with the Dean's more sonorous tones. As Sir Tristram, Nigel Stock came across as the archetypcal retired military officer - accustomed to ordering everyone about, he did not take kindly to being told what to do, even though he was a guest in the Dean's house. It seemed that he and George were made for one another; and so it proved by the end, as the two of them decided to get married. Tydeman also coaxed good supporting performances from John Church as Blore, a cockney butler fond of cynical asides, and Garard Green as Noah, who inadvertently locks the Dean up for a night, believing quite mistakenly that he is a criminal.
As with most farces, the plot of Dandy Dick is too complicated to describe in any detail. What is perhaps more interesting is the way in which Pinero shows authority-figures such as the Dean and Sir Tristram experiencing the seamier side of life in jail or in the police station. Although this is partly due to comic misunderstanding, we are made aware that neither of them really deserve their elevated social position; privilege has simply worked in their favour. In the final act order is restored: the Dean reassumes his position, Noah apologizes, and Sir Nigel marries George. But none of them seemed to have learned much from their experiences.
Dandy Dick was written in 1893, two years before The Importance of Being Earnest. On the strength of Tydeman's production, it seemed that Pinero's play in many ways anticpated Wilde's in its joyous attack on the Establishment.