love head

Jeremy, Valentine and Mrs Frail

Carl Prekopp as Jeremy, Tom Turner as Valentine Legend and Zoë Waites as Mrs Frail.

Pictures: Ellie Kurttz

Love for Love

Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

*****

IN William Congreve’s bawdy restoration comedy, Selina Cadell’s directorial debut is a fun and cheeky story of trickery, false accusations and all-round farce.

It tells us the story of Valentine, who when he finds himself in debt, finds the only way to pay is to sign a bond that gives his inheritance to his younger brother, Ben. What’s more, Valentine must think of a way to ensure that Angelica, his love interest, does not reject him after parting with such a bond.

The play itself is filled with gags and a comedic playfulness. Cadell does well to highlight the era and theatrical style of the restoration comedy written in 1695, while injecting an individual flare to make it as accessible to audiences of 2015.

There is a raucous and slightly bonkers pre-set, where the cast are erecting the set and engage with the audience, they even appoint an audience member as ‘Queen Anne’, giving her a paper crown as they sing a mis-harmonised version of God Save the Queen.

It sets an immediate atmosphere of high energy and fun, alluding to the travelling theatre companies of the time, using only a basic set with the art of being unprepared and a bumbling hustle on stage.

Indeed it is a skill for the large cast to make things look as if they are not quite sure what to do. This brings out the laughter and fun all the more in the pre-set sequence. Cadell has a skill of honouring the actors many talents. With a large cast of excellent worth, Cadell makes sure that every character is given its comical acclaim. It is helped by Rosalind Ebbutt’s costumes, casting a colourful treat for the eyes and hiBenhlighting each character’s individual flamboyance.

With the plots sudden and funny twists and turns, it is the responsibility of the actors to carry the purely energetic story and never let it sink. They deliver ten times over. The cast feed off each other and each scene is a laughable feast, constantly giving the audience something to smile about.

Everyone has something unique to offer with Tom Turner leading the cast as the worried Valentine with a glorious panache and a wonderful emotional maturity. A moment at the end between Valentine and Angelica, played by the exquisite Justine Mitchell, is a great reflection of Turner’s beautiful and touching talent.

Daniel Easton as Ben Legend 

The audience is delighted when Valentine’s brother Ben makes his appearance after coming back from sea, as we only hear of his name during most of the first half. It is a running gag when actors repeat his name with excitement whenever he is talked about. When Ben, played by Daniel Easton, finally enters, there is a playful welcoming fanfare in a jolly sequence, excited for his well awaited arrival.

All actors are excellent in their own right, but as a collective there is a magical creativeness with fun being their main agenda. Even the live band have their part, with a witty integration of ‘cookoo’ sounds when characters appear to be going mad in the second half and Jonathan Christie’s singing is a beautiful addition to the fast paced plot.

Cadell makes sure that every last detail of the performance is filled with detail and charm. With its Commedia Del’Arte influence, no moment is left forgotten. The sub-plots alike are played to great measure, adding layer upon layer of thick comedic fun.

Jenny Rainsford is an absolute delight as the pink-haired country girl Miss Prue, making unstoppable laughs in her pursuit to marry Tattle, who is played by the equally delicious Jonathan Broadbent, a friend to all.

It would be hard to reflect upon one particular shining moment, as the play was a hit from start to finish. Each actor was fully committed to their comedic responsibility from the majestic Nicholas Le Prevost as Sir Sampson to the bumbling Sir Foresight played skilfully by Michael Thomas, no actor put a foot wrong and created a night of immense fun, raucous laughter and cheeky joviality all round. To 22-10-16

Elizabeth Halpin

13-11-15 

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