For Services Rendered

by W Somerset Maugham

181st Production. Written in1933 this play paints a bleak picture of post war disillusionment as symbolised by the family of a country solicitor, living in a small village in Kent.

This is a powerful play, which at one level deals with the destructiveness of the First World War, and at another blindness in all its aspects.

Somerset Maugham’s fine, well-made play starts out as a gentle comedy and turns out to be anything but. Set in the ‘thirties in the inter-war slump, it deals with the problems of decorated war heroes who came back to find that England is not the promised “Land Fit For Heroes” and the dilemmas of the women who have been left behind.

The last house party of the season - tennis on the lawn, tea in the house - introduces us to the Ardsley family and their friends. A pretty picture of the middle classes at play, or so it seems. Each character has been damaged by the war and its aftermath, there is infidelity, suicide, and disillusionment in the promised land. Into the family’s financially and emotionally pinched world stride the successful Cedars and shattered hopes are reawakened and resentments start to bubble.

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Charlotte Ardsley

60 + The still beautiful mother of four children, she is sympathetic and understanding to her family’s troubles. Open and willing to accept change she admits that she thought class divisions would ease after the war. Charlotte’s love for her husband has prompted her to shield him from the harsh realities of life, like her illness. She tries her best to protect her family but she still feels a sense of freedom when she knows that she will soon die.

Leonard Ardsley

60 + The distracted father of the house, he blissfully assumes everything is fine and can’t see further than his nose. He clings to an old-world order that no longer exists and delivers complacent platitudes about the importance of family life and love of one’s country. Old school and immersed in his work, he is blind to his family’s suffering and no longer listens to his wife or family. He always looks on the bright side of things but only so that he does not have to be involved with painful truths.

Sydney Ardsley

30 + A blinded war hero he biliously observes that he and his friends’ patriotic valour has all been in vain. He has adapted to his blindness with a combination of sardonic wit and sympathetic understanding of other’s limitations. He sometimes uses his cynical wit at his own expense for example by telling his mother she must console herself by thinking she has a hero for a son. The war however has embittered Sydney, yet he can sympathise with those around him. He is gracious to the annoying Gwen when she pities him and expresses sorrow when he learns of Collie’s demise and he recognises that his disability is hard on others. He sees his family’s situation more clearly than anyone as he constantly listens in to what is going on around him. Bitter and resigned to his fate his days pass in endless boredom.

Eva Ardsley

40 + The eldest daughter, she is a desperate spinster who has lost her fiancé during the war. A frustrated “old maid” she is treated like the family drudge and is going mad with the knowledge that she will never wed. She admits that helping others does give her a purpose in life but increasingly resents the fact that she has no other options. Chained to the task of endlessly entertaining her brother Sydney she pines to join amorous forces with the cash strapped Collie, and desperately wants a husband and children. Her descent into madness after her rejected marriage proposal is tragic and harrowing.

Ethel Bartlett

35 + A decent and proud woman she holds on to her romantic memories of how much she and Howard were in love when they first met. The married daughter, handsome but careworn she is forced to endure the incipient infidelities of her hoary-handed husband. Downtrodden, dutiful and weary she soldiers on in an unhappy marriage. She stoically toils on the farm and cares for her beloved children. Blindly insisting that all is well in her impulsive, once passionate, wartime marriage she silently weeps when she is on her own at the prospect of her bleak future.

Lois Ardsley

20 + Her monotonous life in the country has preserved her youth and she looks younger than her age. She is full of vibrant good health and energy. A very pretty and alluring young woman she has a feisty, steely grace and is a very modern young girl. There is something rather actressy about her. Her outward high spirits hide her inner desperation to escape her provincial boredom and limited prospects. Her sisters’ bleak lives frighten her and prompt her to think only about herself. She sees an opportunity to escape her enclosed world with a rich older man for whom she cares nothing.

Howard Bartlett

40 + Ethel’s husband who is a working tenant farmer with a chip on his shoulder about his class, and always has a well filled whiskey glass in his hand. There are remnants of the good looks that attracted Ethel during the war when he was wearing his dashing army uniform. He wishes the war was still going strong – he had lots of sex with girls who were attracted by his uniform. He treats his wife like a doormat and has strong desires for Lois.

Doctor Prentice

60 + Charlotte Ardsley’s brother and he is very fond of his sister. The doctor is a caring, supportive presence within the family. He has searching, twinkling eyes and a good sense of humour. He is very concerned about his sister’s health and has to break the news that she has to have an operation or face the prospect of having only 3 months to live.

Wilfred Cedar

50 + An urbane, ageing womaniser, he is a very successful business man who made his money during the war. He enjoys tennis and golf and excels in the former. Well-travelled, he is out to enjoy all the good things in life and tries to make himself agreeable to the Ardsley family. Yet he thinks nothing of humiliating his wife in front of her friends. When Collie asks for money to prevent him going to prison he refuses but soon is paying a good deal of money for pearls to satisfy his lust for Lois. Unhappily married to his older second wife Gwen, he dreads getting old and offers a comfortable escape to the delectable Lois.

Gwen Cedar

50+ His bitter, betrayed second wife. Over-painted and rather too smartly dressed in a manner not becoming to her age. She has the mechanical brightness of someone desperately clinging on to the remnants of her youth. She tries too hard to ingratiate herself into the Ardsley family and lacks tact and discretion. A nervous, constant chatterbox she is tortured by her husband’s infidelities and is violently jealous of the younger prettier Lois. She is desperate to prevent Wilfred from leaving her.

Collie Stratton

35+ A former decorated Naval war hero, he has a rather school-boy manner of someone who has never quite grown up. His understated and rather diffident manner hides his suppressed anger and frustration. Pleasant and well mannered with frank good looks he served with distinction during the war but hasn’t taken well to civilian life. He now rather incompetently runs a garage in the village, and blindly refuses to face up to his impending financial ruin. His pride prevents him from accepting Eva’s offer of money and he is too decent to take advantage of her feelings towards him. He treats Eva with kindness and consideration. His spiralling debt, and threat of imprisonment finally drives him to commit suicide.

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Director - Judith Dolley

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Set Design and Construction - Simon Waller

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Stage Manager and Set Assistant - Liz Thomas