BBC Radio 7, 17 October 2010
In Marian Nancarrow's production Love in a Cold Climate came across as an
upper-class soap opera set in the mid-1930s with class-consciousness at its heart. It involved two near-relatives - Fanny
(Amanda Root), and Polly (Teresa Gallagher) - and their respective amatory adventures. Fanny marries Alfred (Tom Beard), and
Oxford academic, and settles down to a life of happy domesticity: Polly marries Boy (Stephen Crichlow), her uncle by marriage,
who for years has been her mother Lady Montdore's (Barbara Jefford's) lover. There is a large age-difference between Polly
and Boy; so much so that they can seldom get along. They go to live in Italy; Boy has nothing to do, while Polly hates the
life there. Eventually they return to England and Polly finds another lover.
In part Love in a Cold Climate is a satirical comedy, dramatizing the narrow
horizons of expectations experienced by the British upper class between the wars, where young women are expected to "come
out" and subsequently marry as soon as possible. Lady Montdore insists that her daughter Polly should find a partner as soon
as possible, but blenches when she chooses to marry Boy. Nancarrow's production made great comic capital out of the life of
balls (innuendo deliberately intended), marriage and the deliberate inability to understand anything else.
On the other hand Mitford, as a member of the upper class, actually feels affection
for her fellow-citizens. They are somehow to be admired for their ceaseless quest of beauty. Cedric (William Hope) exists
to pander to their whims; to help the women - particularly Lady Montdore - achieve perpetual youth through treatments, and
fuss over them, even when such treatments are unsuccessful. Cedric is also sufficiently self-aware to understand how the women
love to have their cake and eat it; they choose their men, ignore their mistakes and carry on in their own sweet way. They
are resilient, like rubber balls bouncing back to make the same mistakes again and again.