THE BEAUX STRATEGEM
by George Farquhar.
Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 20 September 2015.
1, 4, 11, 18, 28 July, 6 Aug, 10, 12, 19 Sept.
2.30pm 12, 19 July, 13, 20 Sept.
7pm 3 Sept.
7.30pm 30 June-4, 10, 11, 13, 17, 18, 20, 27-29 July, 5, 6, 31 Aug-2, 9-12, 16-19 Sept.
Audio-described 3 July, 4 July, 12 Sept (+ Mat Touch Tours 12.30pm).
Captioned 19 July, 19 Sept 2pm.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 23 June.
A splendid outing for rarely seen classic comedy.
A delicious melancholy hangs over Simon Godwin’s splendid new production of George Farquhar’s popular post-Restoration comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem, fully justified in a play by a Northern Irishman exiled to England and a comedy that nonetheless has serious things to say about marriage, divorce and moral values.
Comedies of the period (Farquhar’s play premiered in 1707) don’t always sit well these days with our populist sensibilities. But Godwin plays it traditional, putting faith in Farquhar’s wonderful dialogue which delivers one comic moment after another and with it a show of warm, chuckling humour with considerable resonance for the status of contemporary women in marriage.
At its centre are the `beaux’, Aimwell and Archer, aptly named since the two gentlemen, down on their luck, are determined to escape poverty through strategic seduction of the fairer and, must be, wealthier sex.
In rural Shropshire, Aimwell sets about courtship of Lady Bountiful’s wealthy daughter, Dorinda, whilst Archer dallies with her daughter-in-law, Mrs Sullen – `sullen’ because of being trapped in an unhappy marriage with a drunken husband but merry by nature and utterly delightful in the hands of Susannah Fielding.
Geoffrey Streatfeild’s Archer, too, is a glorious portrait of dissembling male charm. Together, they could surely mature into a partnership that might rival memories of illustrious predecessors such as Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens.
But Godwin’s production is by no means a limited feast. With Michael Bruce’s haunting folk music – now recalling Ireland, then France – Godwin evokes both madcap and sombre atmospheres with an ensemble alert to not just verbal jokes but spinning turns of speed and subtle reactions.
Everyone in Beaux Stratagem is somehow on the make – with the possible exception of Lady Bountiful and Dorinda, who manages to bring Aimwell to his senses through her honesty.
Godwin’s production also boasts the inclusion of Pearce Quigley who brightened up Shakespeare Globe’s The Changeling with his special form of lugubrious humour. He works wonders here, too, as Scrub, endowing the servant with a slow burn kind of ingenuity and mischief. A total treat.
Boniface: Lloyd Hutchinson.
Cherry: Amy Morgan.
Aimwell: Samuel Barnett.
Archer: Geoffrey Streatfeild.
Lady Bountiful: Jane Booker.
Mr Sullen: Richard Henders.
Dorinda: Pippa Bennett-Warner.
Mrs Sullen: Susannah Fielding.
Scrub: Pearce Quigley.
Gipsy: Molly Gromadzki.
Count Belair: Timothy Watson.
Foigard: Jamie Beamish.
Gibbet: Chook Sibtain.
Hounslow: Mark Rose.
Bagshot: Esh Alladi.
Sir Charles Freeman: Nicholas Khan.
Countrywoman: Barbara Kirby.
Tapster: Cornelius Clarke.
Chamberlain: John Hastings.
Footman: Chris Kelham.
Maid: Ana-Maria Maskell.
Director: Simon Godwin.
Designer: Lizzie Clachan.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: Michael Bruce.
Movement: Jonathan Goddard.
Costume: Nicky Gillibrand.
Company Voice work: Jeannette Nelson.
Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
Fight director: Kev McCurdy.
Dramaturgs: Simon Godwin, Patrick Marber.
This production of The Beaux Stratagem opened in the Olivier Theatre 26 May 2015.