by Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais adapted by Ranjit Bolt.

Watermill Theatre Bagnor RG20 8AE, To 30 July 2011.

Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm except 30 July at 1.30pm & 6.30pm.
Audio-described 21 July 2.30pm (+ Touch tour 12.30pm).
BSL Signed 11 July.
Post-shoe Discussion 22 July.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS: 01635 46044.
Review Mark Courtice 28 June 2011.

Romp goes better when it moves outside.

It’s no longer controversial that the droit de seigneur (the right of the lord to sample young wives before their husbands) is a thoroughly bad thing. Feudalism, which Beaumarchais was attacking through this play, is also long dead.

Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte famously kept the story dangerous by exploring a complex mix of deception, hypocrisy and loss of love as well as setting it to lovely music.

Shorn of the subversion, and without the ravishing score, what we are left with is a romp. Figaro and his intended Suzanne scheme to get a dowry without her paying the price demanded, the libidinous count gets his comeuppance, and the Countess gets some sort of revenge in a tale of double, triple and quadruple cross.

In Ranjit Bolt’s undemanding adaptation (this is its UK premiere) the fun is all in the action, rather than what’s said. On the tiny Newbury stage the action is constrained, the broad-brush playing feels madly over the top, and it’s hard to feel much sympathy or interest in anyone.

That’s not the fault of the hard-working cast who, as they often do at the Watermill, play the music as well as act. There’s lots of energy, it just feels it’s not getting very far.

For the final act in the Count’s garden (weather permitting) the action moves outside into the Watermill’s own garden and suddenly the production finds the focus, wit and charm that has been missing. It helps that Jason Baughan as Figaro cuts loose and delivers a terrific broadside against the hereditary principle, which feels political and engaged. The actors hide in the trees, amongst the audience, and round the millpond. The singing of Sarah Travis’s clever score becomes full-hearted and the rushing around is funny rather than desperate.

Indoors, Kate Saxon’s production struggles with the space, Libby Watson’s set is let down by crude detail and wobbly doors. Outdoors, clever lighting, sound and performance sensitively exploit nature’s own design skills.

Countess: Rachel Atkins.
Figaro: Jason Baughan.
Cherubin/Pedrille: Liam Bergin.
Count: Philip Bird.
Suzanne: Ruth Everett.
Bazille/Antoine: Julian Harries.
Fanchette: Joanna Hickman.

Director: Kate Saxon.
Designer: Libby Watson.
Lighting: Nick Richings.
Music/Musical Director: Sarah Travis.

2011-07-11 01:19:54

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