The Lottery of Love, by Pierre Marivaux Translated by John Fowles
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, until May 13 One hour twenty minutes, without interval
Review: Tom Aitken, 3 April
Laughter, but not mindless . . .
This is obviously a must-see for anyone interested in 18th Century French Theatre. It is equally a must-see for anyone who enjoys the comedy of sexual relationships while being able to detect, within the laughter, the complexity of those relationships when they are entangled within a rigid social structure.
In this play about courtship, a nobleman invites, sight-unseen, another wealthy nobleman to pay court to his daughter Sylvia. When the incomer arrives it is immediately clear that, wealthy though he is, he is also entirely unworthy of his host’s daughter.
(Sylvia, in any case, does not want to marry anybody. She has, she tells her maid, seen any number of good-looking men growing up to be conceited asses.)
The host decides that the best way out of the mess he has let himself into, is to command his daughter and her maidservant to exchange identities.
That’s enough plot. One deception leads to another and the consequences produce a series of hilarious confrontations (which are, of course, taken deadly seriously by the participants).
However, farcical though much of the action and dialogue are, and near-continuous as the audience’s laughter is, Marivaux contrives to make us think of these people as real and rouses our sympathy on their behalf.
This makes for an extremely engaging evening. You will return home snorting with laughter and reflecting thoughtfully on the nature of courtship more or less simultaneously.
Director: Paul Miller Designer: Simon Daw
Lighting: Mark Doubleday Sound Designer and Composer: Max Pappenheim
Sylvia: Dorothea Myer-Bennett Louisa: Claire Lams Mr Morgan: Pip Donaghy Martin: Tam Williams
Richard: Ashley Zhangazha Brass: Keir Charles