Human Dramas Still Resonate in London Wall

The Finborough has done this thirties play proud, says Penny Flood

Related links

London Wall at Finborough Theatre

Finborough Theatre

Finborough Theatre on Twitter

Finborough Theatre Online Booking

Punchy Pack at the Finborough Theatre

Finborough Theatre Presents Confusing Khadija

DC Moore's Straight Comes to the Bush Theatre

Lyric's Cinderella Offers Classic, Fun-filled Pantomime


Sign up for an email newsletter from:, and


London Wall is an utter delight. First performed in the West End in 1931 (starring John Mills), it takes a wry look at the options open to women then, focusing on a solicitor’s office in the City.

Female non-menial job aspirations are limited largely to being typists or secretaries, wider careers are out of the question and, if lucky, a top wage of three pounds a week is the best prospect after many years work.

So, marriage seems to be the only way out of the drudgery, and love doesn’t always come into it: find your man and hope for the best seems to be the message here.

But the play is definitely not all doom and gloom and is often very funny, with a near-farcical frenzy at the end.

It is beautifully written with faultless structure, pace and characterisation, as you’d expect from writer John Van Druten who went on the write I am a Camera (which eventually formed the basis of the musical Cabaret).

The Finborough has done it proud with smashing direction by Tricia Thorns and scenery by Alex Marker. Even the accessories, such as bright ribbons being tied in legal documents and an old switchboard, add subtle touches that are evocative of pre-digital days. And it is carried off by an outstanding cast.

London Wall at Finborough Theatre

All four girls in the typing pool come to life as individuals with their own hopes and dreams. These are developed gradually, with each personal drama unwrapped to reveal just a little bit more as it goes along. There’s Miss Janus (Alix Dunmore), jilted at 35; flirty, fun-loving Miss Bufton (Cara Theobold); determined-to-get-her-engagement-ring Miss Hooper (Emily Bowker); and the pretty, young and idealistic Miss Milligan (Maia lexander).


The other younger workers in the solicitor’s office are men: self-regarding smooth sexual predator Mr Brewer (Alex Robertson) and loveable, cheeky chappie Birkinshaw (Jake Davies).

From another firm in the building comes Miss Milligan’s suitor, the dreamy, shy, love-struck Hec Hammond. He is played by Timothy O’Hara who gave a riveting performance as Billy in Edward Bond’s Chair Plays at the Hammersmith Lyric, and it’s good to see him again this time is a very different role.

There are two more mature characters: the gloriously dotty Miss Willesden (Marty Cruickshank) who keeps trying to see the head solicitor, the avuncular but stern Mr Walker (David Whitworth). He means well but he doesn’t quite understand that women may want a bit more out of life than typing, pinning and filing documents.

The story lines unravel in interesting ways until a dramatic plot twist brings it to a startling end in which the strands are woven into a sometimes sad, sometimes joyous conclusion. And although it is rooted physically in its time and place, the human dramas on stage still resonate in the modern world long after the last ribbon has been tied.

London Wall was made into a film (‘After Office Hours’) in 1932 and televised in 1963, but this is the first time it’s been seen since then which is a crying shame. This a terrific production deserves a bigger theatre and a bigger audience and the Finborough has done well to breathe life back into it.

London Wall runs at the Finborough Theatre until February 23. The entire run is now sold out, apart from returns. You can find out more about the theatre's returns policy here and keep up with news of returns on the theatre's Twitter feed.


February 12, 2013