Be careful what you wish for!

Godfrey “How can a man write glamorous, romantic novels with ink pots flying round his head?”

Lydia “Why should I put up with your second hand husband?” 

Bethan Cullinane as Mary, Alan Cox as Godfrey, Emily Barber as Lydia, Daniel Burke as Michael, Leah Whitaker as Janet and Jim Findley as Henry (Photo: Steve Gregson)

Dorothy L Sayers creator of the posh detective Lord Peter Whimsey and his mystery writer wife Harriet Vane penned this play about two writers in 1940.  Besides poems and her detective novels she wrote ten plays, the second of which was Busman’s Honeymoon and this one, Love All about relationships and the role of married women.

Love All opens in Venice where romantic novelist Godfrey Daybrook (Alan Cox) is living in sin with actress Lydia Hillington (Emily Barber).  They are there in the height of summer when everyone else has fled to the hills or the beach to avoid the heat.  What started eighteen months ago as a romantic elopement has descended into petty complaints and bickering. 

Mrs Daybrook is being dilatory about signing the divorce papers and Godfrey is obviously feeling less and less like marrying Lydia.  At this time, divorce had to be mutual, one party could not obtain a divorce without the agreement of the other. 

This is an era when only unmarried middle class women were allowed to work so the working women we meet are secretaries, Mary Birch (Beth Cullinane) in Venice and Stella Coppingham (a particularly fine brusque performance by Karen Ascoe) in London. 

Things descend in Venice as Lydia complains about mosquitoes and acts like a snowflake.  Godfrey finds his most pompous retorts.  Lydia starts flinging things and an ink pot arrives in the canal below, the ink landing on film director’s wife Judith Mintlaw (Karen Ascoe)’s frock and a gondolier.  Lydia welcomes Judith to their flat to clean up while Godfrey hires a diver to recover the antique silver and glass ink pot from the canal.

Bethan Cullinane as Mary, Alan Cox as Godfrey and Emily BArber as Lydia (Photo: Steve Gregson)

Godfrey, using Mary’s planning, returns to London while pretending he has gone on a trip down the Adriatic and similarly Lydia decides to go back to London to audition for a part in the play Judith has told her about.  Lydia tells Mary to tell Godfrey that she has joined Judith on an Adriatic cruise. 

The play is well planned and has many witty lines but the audience weren’t laughing the night I saw it.  I don’t really know why.  I know that the First Act is setting up the last two and I saw the surprise coming immediately but Alan Cox’s charmless performance didn’t convince as the object of anyone’s love interest.  Lydia describes him as,  “All grubby and frayed like a borrowed dress”.

In London Lydia meets the playwright Janet Reed (Leah Whitaker) and we are plunged into theatrical society with an actor and producer.  Godfrey tells his wife he wants her back as a housewife and mother.  We can be grateful for Dorothy L Sayers’s education at the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge encouraging female independence, and championing the right of married women to work for the debate engendered in the last act.  A hundred years is a long time in emancipation!

Wishing all the best to director Tom Littler as he leaves Jermyn Street to join the Orange Tree in Richmond! 

Leah Whitaker as Janet and Alan Cox as Godfrey (Pghoto: Steve Gregson)

Production Notes

Written by Dorothy L Sayers

Directed by Tom Littler



Alan Cox

Bethan Cullinane

Daniel Burke

Emily Barber

Jim Findley

Karen Ascoe

Leah Whitaker


Director: Tom Littler

Set Designer:  Louise Whitemore

Costume Designer:  Anett Black

Composer and Sound Designer:  Tom Attwood

Movement Design: Anjali Mehra

Lighting Designer: Chris McDonnell


Running Time: Two hours 15 minutes with an interval

Booking to 8th October 2022



Jermyn Street Theatre

Jermyn Street

London SW1Y 6ST

Website: Jermyn Street Theatre

Tube: Piccadilly Circus

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at Jermyn Street Theatre

on  16th September 2022