A LADY OF LITTLE SENSE
by Lope de Vega translated by David Johnston.
Arcola Theatre 24 Ashwin Street Dalston E8 3DL In rep 11 January-14 March.
7.30pm 11, 27 Jan-1 Feb, 17-22 Feb, 10-14 March.
2.30pm 1, 22 Feb.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
then Belgrade Theatre (B2) Belgrade Square CV1 1GS In rep 26 March-17 April 2014.
7.30pm 26, 31 March, 1, 10, 12, 16, 17 Apr.
2.15pm 5, 9 Apr.
TICKETS: 024 7655 3055
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 February.
At least as successful in Dalston as in Bath.
Same play, same production, same cast; only the stage is different. When Lawrence Boswell’s revival of this Lope de Vega comedy opened at Bath’s Ustinov Studio, the cast faced a bank of spectators in front of them. At the Arcola, the audience is mostly seated to the sides of the acting area.
Coventry Belgrade’s B2 space may prove the most appropriate of all. Yet it hardly matters with a production where the actors seem as comfortable playing to three sides wrapped round the stage as they were in Bath.
Lope’s play, with its plot convolutions, remains as bright as before, the playing if anything tighter and more alert, without any trace of stale repetition. On second viewing, a play where a father and various suitors make judgements on two sisters has even sharper focus. Katie Lightfoot’s fair-haired, intelligent Nise is criticised by men for something like shrewishness, but is merely ‘guilty’ of making sensible comments and expressing her own opinions.
The performance of the show is Frances McNamee’s Finea. At first, hair wild, movement awkward, she seems an idiot – except that, even in her simplicities there’s a kind of literal logic. As with the Shrew Shakespeare put up for taming, there emerges the question of how much she behaves stupidly because everybody keeps telling her she is stupid.
When things change, and, her hair neat, her clothing and movement ordered, she joins her sister in a dance, she is not only sensible as they come but aware of how benighted she had been. Later, she puts on an act of stupidity, but outmanoeuvres her father through a kind of literal linguistic wordplay that shows a bright mind using a simple trick.
It makes the men seem self-centred. William Hoyland’s authoritative father has views on women that might madden any intelligent daughter, and, in a society where times are evidently hard, money determines men’s views of women. Most come off badly, notably Simon Scardifield’s Liseo, who moves from strutting confidently on his marriage mission to cowering in a corner, saved only by the love of a good – and intelligent – woman.
Liseo: Simon Scardifield.
Turin/Duardo: Chris Andrew Mellon.
Leandro/Feniso/Pedro: Doug Rao.
Octavio: William Hoyland.
Miseno/Rufino/Dance Master: Jim Bywater.
Nise: Katie Lightfoot.
Celia: Annie Hemingway.
Finea: Frances McNamee.
Clara: Hedydd Dylan.
Laurencio: Nick Barber.
Director: Laurence Boswell.
Designer/Costume: Mark Bailey.
Lighting: Ben Ormerod.
Sound/Composer: Jon Nicholls.
Choreographer/Movement: Lucy Cullingford.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Genevieve Raghu.
See also the review of this production from Bath’s Ustinov Studio.