TOO CLEVER BY HALF
by Alexandr Ostrovsky adapted by Rodney Ackland.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 17 August 2013.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed 2.30pm & Sat 3.30pm.
Audio-described 10 Aug 3.30pm.
BSL Signed 13 Aug.
Captioned 8 Aug.
Post-show Discussion 1 Aug.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 June.
They have their exits and their entrances alright.
Russia’s greatest playwright Anton Chekhov was eight when Alexandr Ostrovsky’s play appeared. Ten years earlier, in 1858, official sanction had finally been given to perform Ostrovsky’s earlier comedy A Family Affair It was the brilliant iconoclasm of Nick Dear’s English adaptation of that, in Declan Donnellan’s 1988 Cheek by Jowl production, which made clear 19th-century Russian comedy wasn’t an affair of sentimental smiles through sensitive tears.
Nikolai Gogol and his Government Inspector were no longer the exception. Ostrovsky emerged as sharp, satirical, fast-paced, as in this play, which has a similarity to The Government Inspector.
In both a young man’s taken for what he’s not and the good opinion he’s won by flattering everyone collapses when his private thoughts are revealed (in Gogol through a letter, here a diary).
Though Yegor Gloumov hasn’t been mistaken for a more important figure, his schemes for self-advancement by climbing through local society involve buttering-up characters as grotesque as Gogol’s, till they all slip-up as his real views of them are read out to the assembled group.
Told By An Idiot’s Paul Hunter is an apt choice for director even though updating to a very 1960s different world, Russian only by names, generalises without universalising.
Dyfan Dwyfor’s bright-mannered young Gloumov might fool anybody; he is a smart-looking contrast to the clumsier, slower-witted folk around.; such desperate, dysfunctional people are hardly tough territory for him – Nick Haverson’s decrepit if eager Kroutitsky or Idiotic Hayley Carmichael’s Kleopatra, a married woman out for adventure.
Penelope Dimond is splendidly insouciant as Gloumov’s mum, tapping-out the poison-pen letters he’s using to set folks at odds. Even the cast-list conceals a trick, with an audience member helping out.
Hunter operates through added comic devices. He exploits the basic sightline concern of theatre-in-the-round, promising half the audience they’ll get to see what they’ve just missed Entrances and exits, the former particularly, are accompanied by sound or other gags, ingeniously or infuriatingly according to taste. Yet, if theatrical trickery tends to dominate, Hunter’s production still shows the energy the fed into Russia’s greatest playwright – and it is the end of season show.
Yegor Dimitrich Gloumov: Dyfan Dwyfor.
Glafira Klimovna Gloumova/Lubinka: Penelope Dimond.
Styopka/Matriosha: Nitin Kundra.
Neel Fedoseitch Mamaev: Richard Braine.
Kleopatra Ilvovna Mamaev: Hayley Carmichael.
Kroutitsky: Nick Haverson.
Ivan Ivanovitch Gorodoulin: Calum Finlay.
Sofia Ignatievna Tourousina: Carla Mendonça.
Mashenka/Golutvin: Debbie Korley.
Yegor Vassilitch Kourchaev: Dharmesh Patel.
Maniefa: Lisa Hammond.
Grigori: Murray Bait.
Director: Paul Hunter.
Designer: Laura Hopkins.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Choreographer: Georgina Lamb.
Assistant director: India Maclennan.