CANDIDE: version by Mark Ravenhill, inspired by the novel by Voltaire
RSC, The Swan
Runs: 1h 50m, no interval, to 26 October 2013
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 05 09 13
It’s original, it’s unusual, it’s a delight.
Mark Ravenhill, aided and abetted by director Lyndsey Turner and a strong team, has perfectly captured the tone of Votaire’s original. This production is lively, irreverent, surprising, sharply satirical and stabs you in the back the moment you are unwise enough to turn away for a second. While it entertains, it disturbs; while it promotes optimism it is deeply nihilistic. Splendid job.
The play begins almost sedately in 18th Century France with Candide awakening from a coma, sexual fodder for the Duchess, but it’s soon winding its own perverse course though a bloodbath of family murders, to a film-script conference, to Eldorado and beyond. As this merry ship sails along, Ravenhill feeds in just enough of the original book’s context to add depth and intrigue.
This is very much an ensemble piece. Watching it you can’t help but feel the company must have had a hoot rehearsing it, and this feeling of delight is infectious. But it’s handled masterfully; for every cloud has a sable lining.
Matthew Needham leads the company as Candide, marrying the mercurial with the feet-on-the-ground. Katy Stephens brings a dark and disturbing edge to the role of Sarah, and Susan Engel is well worth waiting for as Cunegonde. While invention is strong throughout the Eldorado section, an annoyingly idealistic society, is inspired in conception and execution – what you crave for is excellent, until you get it. (Their chosen form of transport could solve many of the world’s problems except global warming.)
Lyndsey Turner directs with great confidence and aplomb in Soutra Gilmour’s designs to die for.
Ellie Beaven – Abarian Soldier/Emma/Nurse
Ishia Bennison – Countess/Hannah
Susan Engel – Cunegonde
Richard Goulding – Playwright/Screenwriter
Kevin Harvey – Jacques/Bulgarian Soldier/Voltaire
John Hopkins – Bulgarian Officer/Tim
Harry McEntire – Prologue/Abarian Soldier/Ben/Tetuan
Matthew Needham – Candide
Ciarán Owens – Bulgarian Sergeant/Sailor/Adam
Ian Redford – Pangloss/Beggar/Abarian Soldier/Ted
Rose Reynolds – Young Cunegonde/Rosa/Abarian Soldier/The Girl/Padres
Steffan Rhodri – Baron/Abarian Soldier/Mike/Cacombo
Sarah Ridgeway – Bulgarian Soldier/Sophie/Tucamon
Katy Stephens – Baroness/Bulgarian Soldier/Sarah
Badria Timimi – The Woman/Bulgarian Soldier/Eva/Martina
Dwane Walcott – Candide (the actor)/Oreillon
Director – Lyndsey Turner
Designer – Soutra Gilmour
Lighting – Tim Lutkin
Music – Michael Bruce
Sound – Christopher Shutt
Literary Manager – Pippa Hill
Movement – Scott Ambler
Fights – Bret Yount