THE WILD GOOSE CHASE
by John Fletcher.
White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road SE11 4DJ To 3 July 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 6pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7793 9193.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 June.
Rough-hewn at times, but a rare chance to see once-popular play.
In his final years in the theatre William Shakespeare collaborated with John Fletcher, 15 years his junior and playwriting’s new star. Fletcher also collaborated with Francis Beaumont, and, as here, wrote plays solo. A fashionable writer, fashion effectively killed him, when he stayed in London to be measured for a new suit as plague erupted in 1625.
This comedy of the sexes nearly escaped the capture experienced by Mirabell, the ‘wild goose’ of the title. The sole copy was borrowed and not returned in time for the collected edition of Fletcher’s plays, being added in 1652, 31 years after its first performance.
While loving Oriana waits for him in Paris, Mirabell, her guardian’s son, has been travelling round Italy with friends. In David Brown’s modern-dress production (on James Sheppard’s games-court set), Ami Sayers sits lovingly by Mirabell’s framed photo, despite warnings from her brother De Gard that she shouldn’t expect too much from the man he’s seen playing away.
Filled-out with the stories of young Pinac and Belleur, who meet a couple of eligible sisters (displayed here on plinths for suitors’ admiration by their mother), the play shows Oriana’s efforts to bring Mirabell back to the marriage promise he’d earlier made her.
Given his cavalier attitude to women, it takes some doing, involving stratagems to invoke jealousy, pity and avarice. Finally, her pose as a rich Italian widow (surrounded by designer shopping bags) works the trick.
Meanwhile, his friends Pinac and Belleur find themselves surprised by Rosalaura’s shift from seductive to serious, and Lillia Bianca’s change from studious to fun-loving, as their natures are liberated from the training of Lugier (a whip-carrying Jackie Skarvellis – though making the role female dents the theme of women freeing themselves from male control). Belleur tries to act tough but crumbles when mocked. In a further trick, a courtesan’s introduced to pose as a fine lady.
Oriana and the other women are active and purposeful in the plot; Sayers ensuring Oriana is the play’s heart. Among some rough-edged, over-fussy playing Nik Drake’s Mirabell rings true and clear as the wild goose flying, then caught.
De Gard: Andrew Thompson.
La-Castre: Anthony Cable.
Mirabell: Nik Drake.
Pinac: Danny Wainwright.
Belleur: Edward Cartwright.
Nantolet: Annabel Pemberton.
Lugier: Jackie Skarvellis.
Oriana: Ami Sayers.
Rosalaura: Kerry Wotton.
Lillia Bianca: Joanna Nuttall.
Servant: Terry Jermyn.
Mariana: Megan Elizabeth Pitt.
Factor: Michael Shane.
Director: David Brown.
Designer: James Sheppard.
Lighting: Nigel Lewis.
Assistant director: Jenny Foxwell.