The Circle has been a firm favourite with theatre audiences since 1921 and it’s not hard to see why.

Strong emotions are never far from the surface as Somerset Maugham’s elegantly set social satire explores marriage and infidelity as it delivers tears, tantrums and some home truths.

Jane Asher, Clive Francis and Nicholas Le Prevost star in the main roles as The Circle’s new UK tour opens at the Theatre Royal in Bath.

Thursday evening’s review performance featured a change of cast as Clive Francis was indisposed and the part of Clive Champion-Cheney was performed by Robert Maskell, who usually plays the butler George Murray.

His role was performed by Gabriel Cagan, understudying the roles of Arnold Champion-Cheney, Teddie Luton and Murray.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Jane Asher, who commands the stage as Lady Catherine ‘Kitty’ Champion-Cheney, as a famed society beauty who notoriously abandons her stuffy husband Clive Champion-Cheney and young son Arnold to elope with the handsome Lord Porteous.

Thirty years later, love’s young dream has descended into non-stop squabbling and talks of other affairs on both sides, but there’s tenderness between the two when the bickering stops.

Meanwhile, Arnold (Pete Ashmore) faces the same marital fate, as his dissatisfied wife Elizabeth (Olivia Vinall) in a well-pitched performance, threatens to elope with the dashing Teddie Luton (Daniel Burke).

Wiltshire Times: The Circle: Olivia Vinall as Elizabeth, Pete Ashmore as Arnold.The Circle: Olivia Vinall as Elizabeth, Pete Ashmore as Arnold. (Image: Nobby Clark)

Will history come full circle or can one generation learn from their parents’ mistakes? I’ll leave you to guess the answer.

First staged in 1921, the play has remained a firm favourite with audiences ever since as Somerset Maugham explores the conflict between romance and responsibility with his characteristically shrewd understanding of human nature.

Elizabeth’s interest is piqued by Lady Kitty as she wants to know more about her husband’s mother and has invited both Arnold’s parents, long since separated, to a family weekend.

Years later, Lady Kitty’s a lot older and wiser with Jane Asher suitably decked out in scarlet dress and red hair, while bickering with a querulous Lord Porteous, played admirably by understudy Robert Maskell.

She’s on hand to give sage advice to Elizabeth who, unbeknown to her husband and family, is herself contemplating doing a romantic runner with Teddie, who has business interests abroad in Malaya.

The older actors play their parts to perfection, while the younger actors are called upon to express strong emotions, in particular Pete Ashmore as the stolid MP Arnold, who has a narrow Parliamentary majority, when he finds his wife wishes to leave him and wants a divorce.

Too late, he finds after three years of a childless marriage that he has shown more fondness for furniture than starting a family and that his wife no longer loves him and is bored by local and London society.

Olivia Vinall plays Elizabeth with great delicacy and sensitivity as she prevaricates between running off with her lover, whom she's never even kissed, and staying with Arnold.

Maugham, once the world’s highest-paid author, frequently hammers home his moral and social points with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer but the play has a certain comedic wit.

Director Tom Littler keeps the audience guessing as to what Elizabeth will do right until the end and there’s even a nice twist when Clive fails to foresee how her romantic engagement with Teddie will play out.

Set and costume design is by Louie Whitemore, Lighting design is by Chris McDonnell and sound design is by Max Pappenheim.

The Circle appears to Saturday, January 20. To book tickets call the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or visit