or The Medley of Lovers
by David Garrick
or A Bone for the Lawyers
by Charles Macklin.

White Bear Theatre 139 Kennington Park Road SE 11 4DJ To 14 November 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7793 9193.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 November.

Lost laughs from the past.
These farces, from leading actor-authors of the 18th-century London stage, make a fascinating historical pairing. Both follow familiar comic plots of the time, with a young woman to be married-off to a much older man for financial gain.

Ideal young suitors are evident, with a side-order of ridiculous types – Garrick includes a fencing match between cowards evidently derived from the Viola/Andrew Aguecheek match in Twelfth Night.

His 1747 play shows rival suitors, young and old, for teenage Miss Biddy turning out father and son. Also around the frame are the vainglorious Flash and the effeminate Fribble (who, in a neat detail, spends the time with a cut finger elaborately bandaged).

Macklin includes a comic French medic, a rapacious, if briefly seen, mother and an aptly-named old miser. Both plays are stuffed with comic action. And Mr Hart’s Theatrical Company provides notable prologues, capturing the disorder of the 18th-century playhouse.

The determined concentration Jennifer Masters has to show to complete the verse prologue to Miss, against the rising tide of conversations from the company around, says a lot about the skill needed to subdue an excitable audience (these people could riot) in a crowded, fully-lit auditorium of the time.

And Macklin’s play begins with an Irishman laid out across the stalls, plus some theatrical conversation before things get underway. These atmospheric openings are strong points in an evening which would have gained from the directors taking a more controlled line with performances.

There are telling moments – older women do well, with Gil Sutherland’s cross-dressed Aunt restrained in the first play, and Tori Hart’s Lady Lovewealth fuming rapaciously at the side in Will. And Graham Butler brings plentiful detail to the wily servant Shark in Macklin’s Gianni Schicchi trick, disguising himself as the dying Sir Isaac and willing much of ‘his’ estate to Shark while others look impotently on. Hart’s production emphasises the disgusting physicality of old age early on, which is fair enough in a line going back to Jonathan Miller’s anti-elegant School for Scandal, but generally less fuss and externality would benefit revivals which too often substitute energy for finesse.

Miss in her Teens
Sir Simon Loveit/Aunt: Gil Sutherland.
Captain Loveit: Adam Alexander.
Fribble: Matthew Butler.
Flash: Graham Butler.
Puff: John Fitzpatrick.
Jasper: Nick Errington.
Miss Biddy: Tori Hart.
Tag: Emma King.

Director: Jennifer Masters.
Lighting: Libby Spencer.

A Will and No Will
Rattle/Mr Littlewit: Adam Alexander.
Smart/Bellair: Nick Errington.
Irishman/Doctor Leatherhead: John Fitzpatrick.
Snarlewit/Mr Death/Monsieur de Maigre: Matthew Butler.
Sir Isaac Skinflint: Gil Sutherland.
Shark: Graham Butler.
Lady Lovewealth: Tori Hart.
Harriet: Emma King.
Lucy: Jennifer Masters.

Director: Tori Hart.
Lighting: Libby Spencer.

2010-11-09 04:00:50

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