The Voysey Inheritance

Written by Harley Granville-Barker

Thurs 25th November - Sat 27th November & Tues 30th November - Sat 4th December 1993

Directed by John Scadding

So what is The Inheritance? And why has Edward, the unlikeliest of all children, been chosen to be told of it? Harley Granville-Barker's comedy-drama of scandal in the suburbs was written in 1905 and has been popular ever since.

AuthorHarley Granville-Barker

Harley Granville-Barker (1877 - 1946)

From genteel poverty Harley Granville-Barker rose to be a most successful actor, director, playwright and Professor of Shakespearian Studies. Born in London, he made his first debut and appearance onstage there at the age of 14. His acting work led to increasing discontent with the low standards of the commercial theatre. After success with the Stage Society, Granville-Barker turned his attentions to his own theatre company and took a lease on the Royal Court Theatre in London where he managed three seasons of repertory theatre. In some cases, the great success of the productions was due in part to his acting performances.

His productions of Shakespeare's plays at the Savoy Theatre in 1912 and 1914 were highly influential. He spurned the 'star' system of acting and instead concentrated on excellence in the entire ensemble. He directed actors to speak Shakespeare's text rapidly, and used mainly curtains to create scenery, thus cutting down on the length of performances. He steered clear of elaborate, historically-accurate scenery and opted instead for symbolic patterns and shapes on stage. In all of these innovations, Barker sought to capture the 'spirit' of Shakespeare's plays.

As a playwright, Granville-Barker experimented with form, and proved an extremely gifted writer of dialogue and architect of ideas. For the second half of his life he was protected from financial worries by his second wife's large fortune. Living in some splendour down in Dorset, he gave up the stage for study, with many of his friends saying he has deserted the fight for a better theatre. However he remained committed to the importance of amateur drama. Though his hopes for a National Theatre (with himself as its first director faded and faded) he left behind him many writings and plans to make such a theatre practicable in the future.

PlayThe Voysey Inheritance

Edward's highly principled world upturns when his father reveals that he has been illegally speculating with clients' money. To make matters worse, he soon discovers his large, scandal-fearing family would perpetuate the crime rather than risk public dishonour. This magnificently observed, hugely enjoyable portrait of an upper-middle-class family was written by the father of 20th-century British theatre, Harley Granville-Barker, ten years before the first world war finally sent old values flying.

The Bench Production

The Voysey Inheritance poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. This play had 3 incarnations authorised by the author. The first, was in 1905, the second in 1913 and the third in 1934. For this production Bench Theatre staged the 1934 version.


Mr VoyseyStuart Hartley
Mrs VoyseyRita de Bunsen
Trenchard VoyseyAndrew Caple
Major Booth VoyseyPeter Corrigan
Mrs Booth VoyseyWendy Stangroom
Edward VoyseyDavid Penrose
Hugh VoyseyTim Taylor
Mrs Hugh VoyseyNicola Scadding
Honor VoyseyRuth Prior
Ethel VoyseyRebecca Webb
Denis TregoningNeil Kendall
Alice MaitlandAlyse Ashton
Mr George BoothDerek Cusdin
Rev. Evan ColpusAndrew Ingle
PeaceyDamon Wakelin
PhoebeRebecca Webb


Director John Scadding
Stage Managers Henry Uniacke, Rebecca Webb
and Ann Gillespie
Music John O'Hanlon
Lighting and Sound Rob Finn and Tony Ford
Wardrobe Rita de Bunsen and Ruth Prior
Poster Pete Woodward
Set Design David Penrose and Lucy Golden
Set Construction Tim Taylor
Front of House Sally Hartley

Director's Notes

Granville-Barker wanted to write poetic plays. He wrote them; had a few performances of them, and met with a bemused reaction. So he set to and wrote a 'well-made play', typical of his period with French windows, a dark secret, two pairs of lovers, revelations and all the rest of it; all seemingly straight-forward stuff - and the public loved it. his is the play you are to see tonight - a sort of comedy-drama. But he sneakily still kept in the poetry. Underneath all the daily comings and goings of the play, and on top of all these comings and goings he has tried to pass into it the poetry and mystery of every day life. The What? Well, we know a lot more about this thing since Pinter and Albee's 'Zoo Story', and of course the Irish have been doing it for years. The Poetry of Daily Living - that is, the language feelings and gestures coming from people under extreme pressure. And the pressure in this play is The Inheritance.

But what Inheritance? Not just the money thing, surely, but the inheriting of a father who is very kind, very generous and very over-bearing. How to deal with the Inheritance. This is the problem for the people in our story. And much much else besides of course.

John Scadding


The NewsMike Allen

A perfect little pocket guide to life

Nowadays, says someone in The Voysey Inheritance, business is conducted more or less on the lines of a confidence trick. In that, and in churning over ideas of trust and self-interest, Harley Granville-Barker's play has 1993 resonances. The Bench Theatre company shows admirable enterprise in unearthing it. The central character would be a daunting challenge for any actor. Edward Voysey is described as a "perfect little pocket guide to life". David Penrose effectively shows the man grow to the point where he "finds himself".

Peter Corrigan is a splendidly booming-voiced barrack-room bully, and Derek Cusdin, as the preening old family friend, times the play's best line adroitly: "Oh, this is monstrous," he says. "Oh, it's nearly lunchtime." But other characters need more colouring and John Scadding's production needs to play up the humour.

The News, 26th November 1993

Production Photographs