THE ROVER To 25 August.


by Aphra Behn.

New Diorama 15-16 Triton Street Regents Place NW1 3BF To 25 August 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7383 9034.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 August.

Energetic but unfocussed.
I’ve never been enjoined to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’, but anyone falling asleep during this production (unlikely given its swiftness and volume in the compact New Diorama) might well wake up and smell the set. Notably a costume designer’s credited, but no-one for set. Colourful costumes swirl as English cavaliers, banished from their Puritan land, engage in their frolics (some not so frolicsome) during Neapolitan Carnival time. They do so against a black curtain surround. But a sense of smell and a look downward reveals a Naples apparently treading on new-mown hay.

Which shows there’s more than one way to impart freshness to a production. And Natalie York’s Pell Mell Theatre certainly bring freshness and energy to the New Diorama. Rather more of those qualities than of technical finesse, though there are signs of potential strong performers in this cast. A few bursts of music might help in the quite frequent transitions between scenes, in maintaining energy levels – though York switches between the stories with swiftness.

Aphra Behn’s play, which has become established among Restoration Comedies, is distinguished by its female authorship. Behn adopted the conventions of the period’s sexually frank comedy but made her women more individual and active (rather than reactive) than in male-authored plays (perhaps Congreve’s Millamant comes closest in independence of mind and behaviour, rather than as a male idea of such qualities). And York ensures the impact of unwanted sex is clear.

While the banished cavaliers search for sex or find love, local women engage in Carnival-time waylaying and robbing a susceptible male in a busy plot. As they do so, both Felix Trench as Willmore and Lucy Wray as Hellena bring a welcome sense of composure, which doesn’t lack energy but focuses their characters, while Matt Gibbs gives the impression of potential in comedy or serious roles, once he’s acquired equal focus.

It’s the problem with the production more widely: so much gesture and vocal elaboration diffuses impact and overwhelms the audience. It certainly keeps people awake, but leaves no time to enjoy smelling the hay, or Behn’s plot played upon it.

Willmore: Felix Trench.
Antonio: Chukwudi Onwere.
Pedro: Dean Brammall.
Belville: Leo Marcus Wan.
Blunt: Matt Gibbs.
Cesare: Henrik Hjort.
Hellena: Lucy Wray.
Angellica: Camilla Whitehill.
Florinda: Georgina Morrell.
Lucetta: Louisa Marie Lorey.
Chloris: Emma Kirrage.
Galatea: Nicky Diss.
Clemene: Rachel Lea-Gray.

Director: Natalie York.
Lighting: Venus Raven.
Choreographer: Katie Wignall.
Costume: Giulia Scrimieri.
Fight director: Gordon Kemp.

2012-08-24 14:04:26

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