by Pierre Marivaux translated by Neil Bartlett.

Salisbury Playhouse Salthouse Lane SP2 7RA To 23 April 2011.
Mon-Wed 7.30pm Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 21 April 2.30pm & 8pm.
BSL Signed 20 April.
Post Show Discussion 19 April.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 01722 320333.
Review: Mark Courtice 11 April.

Good performances in farcical version of Marivaux’ comedy of love and class.
By changing places with her maid, Sylvia reckons she can find out more about her father-approved suitor when he comes to call at their elegant house in the country. He has decided that taking a look at his intended from the perspective of a chauffeur will give him more room for manoeuvre. Thus 18th-century playwright Marivaux sets up a comedy of transformations where truths about love and class will be learned by chance, but nothing is to be taken too seriously – it is a game after all.

Given it’s French and funny, director Philip Wilson has gone for a broadly farcical production; the sex is turned into extravagant clinches and there are meaningless sequences of running through the myriad doors of Tom Rogers’ set. The servants drop their aitches and the dinner-jacketed upper classes are always having another drink in the sub-Coward world into which the play has been translated.

It is very well acted, especially by Jo Herbert as Lisette the maid who defines pertness and cheeky opportunism while also making the most of the tricky moment when she realises that nothing’s going to change and she’ll get the chauffeur after all. Antonio Magro is splendid as the real chauffeur Arlecchino; his is a performance of physicality, vocal dexterity and energy, making skilful use of commedia dell’arte style to be very funny indeed.

Neil Bartlett’s elegant and witty translation originally set all this in the 1930s, and here Wilson has moved it up to the ’60s. This means he has the opportunity for lots of cheesy music and period frocks (this is pre mini-skirt). Tom Rogers has responded with lovely designs, the set is Wedgwood china blue, but robust enough for all the doors to slam satisfactorily.

Wilson handles the self-conscious theatricality with confidence, and there’s effective musicality – Glyn Kerslake’s Maurice lounges at the piano and plays apt tunes from time to time. It just could be more subtle – the farce ignores Marivaux’ sophistication in exploring the ways of the heart while the updating doesn’t reflect his robust challenge to the social mores of his age.

Mr Prowde: Stephen Critchlow.
Dorant: Tom Davey.
Lisette: Jo Herbert.
Maurice: Glyn Kerslake.
Silvia: Hattie Ladbury.
Arlecchino: Antonio Magro.

Director: Philip Wilson.
Designer: Tom Rogers.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Alex Twiselton.
Music: Paul Englishby.

2011-04-14 01:41:28

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