Having successfully revived Hannah Cowley's 'The Belle's Stratagem' last year, Jessica Swale and her Red Handed Theatre Company return with a vibrant adaptation of Susanna Centlivre's slightly earlier eighteenth-century farce.
Wealthy London gent George desires young beauty Miranda, whose domineering guardian intends her for himself, while George's pal Charles pines for Isabinda, whose mother is hellbent on her marrying a Spaniard. Through a series of trysts and elaborate disguises, the four lovebirds endeavour to outwit the tyrannical guardians in order to marry, hindered continually by misguided busybody Marplot.
Much of the strength of this production stems from Swale's insertion of witty musical interludes between scenes, combining traditional melodies with contemporary lyrics that comment cheekily on the farcical action taking place, successfully updating the play's humour. Swale's choreography is equally inventive, and there are several superb comic performances from the cast, with Gay Soper suitably commanding as Isabinda's absurdly authoritarian mother, Lady Traffick.
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5 / 5
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A quite outstanding evening. This pleasant, undemanding play is taken to another level by Jessica Swale's stand-out direction. In particular she provides a series of funny, contemporary musical interludes, all greeted with delighted applause. All performances are good and some - particularly the ladies' - are top-notch. Wish this production had a life beyond the current run.
Blissful - wonderfully played by an excellent cast. Charm and serious laughter from start to finish.