Posted: 18 Feb 2018 04:08 PM PST
On Edinburgh’s stages this week
A busy week on Edinburgh’s stages, with big circus, a bordello, Burns, a spot of ballet, a ghostly tale and the youth section of the SCDA’s one-act festival.
The big news for new writing fans is the return of the Village Pub Theatre, however, which has an evening of plays inspired by all things literary this Tuesday – following on, no doubt, from VPT co-founder James Ley’s Love Song to Lavender Menace.
You have three weeks to see The Belle’s Stratagem, which is at the Lyceum until March 10. Directory Tony Cownie excels himself, as Hugh noted in his review (★★★★☆ Exemplary comedy), and word of mouth is likely to be very strong on this one, so the advice is a to book a ticket early.
If you missed Conor McPherson's chilling, modern classic The Weir when it was at the Lyceum in 2016 (“★★★★☆ Quietly affecting”) the usually excellent English Touring Company is at the King’s to Saturday with a production that originated at the Mercury Theatre Colchester, directed by Adele Thomas.
There are three companies taking part in the SCDA’s youth event on Sunday 25 at the Church Hill Theatre. It should be something of a blast – with one production featuring a cast of 38, no less. There are more details of the event, which starts at 5pm, here: SCDA One Act Festival Preview.
If you missed Natasha Gilmore’s Barrowland Ballet last week at the Festival Theatre Studio, they are continuing their tour of Wolves to the Brunton on Friday night. We didn’t see the show ourselves, but we had great reports from our friend in the stalls, who said she: “loved the performances by the very talented, intergenerational cast. It has lovely, whimsical moments; funny and moving with a wonderful score.”
She didn’t like the fellow audience member who sat looking at her phone for the whole performance, however. And worse, who boasted at the end that she was friends with members of the cast. Some friend!
Incidentally, that is the second report this week of people looking at their phones during a show and, if not ruining the performance, at least reducing its impact. We think that this is the height of theatre bad manners and have started keeping a note of instances. If you have experienced phone screen light pollution in an Edinburgh theatre, do drop us a line.
Also back in town, but riding a somewhat different wave, is David Leddy with The Last Bordello. We ran a preview of this intriguing show back in December (Leddy's Bordello Edinburgh Bound) in which he said he “finds myself writing about the abuse of power again and again because it disturbs me so much”. This was before his company, Fire Exit, controversially had its RFO status removed by Creative Scotland. It will be interesting to see the production in the light of these subsequent events.
Listings: Mon 19 – Sun 25 Feb 2018
Church Hill Theatre
Posted: 18 Feb 2018 08:26 AM PST
Royal Lyceum Theatre: Thurs 15 Feb – Sat 10 Mar 2018
Vivacity, wit and downright stupidity abound in The Belle's Stratagem at the Lyceum, a production of verve and cheek that produces as much laughter as anything seen on the Edinburgh stage in recent years.
Hannah Cowley's 1780 comedy of manners is adapted and directed by Tony Cownie, and tells of young Letitia Hardy, betrothed to Doricourt since childhood. Doricourt, recently returned from the Grand Tour, regards the women of Scotland with disdain, and Letitia accordingly sets in motion a scheme to make her fiancé either fall in love with her – or hate her, which is apparently just as good.
No-one who saw the same director's rip-roaring version of The Venetian Twins will be surprised by this stylish, colourful comedy. Indeed, the moving of the setting to Georgian Edinburgh, with its opportunities for local references, brings this even closer to pantomime territory.
There are certainly plenty of knowing asides, and jokes both old and new, in a script drawing on several strands of the Scottish traditions of variety and comedy. At times the playing to the gallery verges on the shameless, and there is one moment – where Richard Conlon's Courtall expounds his villainous plans to the audience – when the temptation to boo is almost irresistible.
Whether this goes too far will depend largely on personal preference and tolerance for keech jokes, but anyone who appreciates skilful comedy performances will find a great deal to appreciate. The ability to wring the maximum possible humour from a situation without killing it, is beautifully displayed by Steven McNicoll, whose blustering Provost and wheezing servant are equally vital characterisations.
Similarly, John Ramage's instantly recognisable journalist, obsessed by gossip and star ratings, is a beautiful creation. Nicola Roy, in another double role, has unbeatable comic timing.
There is more than just knockabout fun here, however. Cowley's original story, originally partly a response to Farquhar's The Beaux' Stratagem, sought to give female characters more of a driving force in theatrical plots. Even if not all of the attempts to update things ring true, the contemporary relevance is clear.
This is helped by some performances which go beyond humorous effect and are more affecting. Grant O'Rourke's comedic brilliance almost goes without saying, but there is something about his insecure man-child Sir George Touchwood that is pathetic in both senses and is thoroughly believable. Helen Mackay, as his naive wife Frances, also has considerable authenticity behind the stereotypical character.
Pauline Knowles, meanwhile, gives the widowed Mrs Racket a thoroughly convincing and utterly modern air. John Kielty's Saville also has an ambiguity about him that seems very contemporary.
Not all of the characters lend themselves so readily to understanding by modern audiences. The 'Belle' of the title, her intended and her 'stratagem’ could come across as unfathomable, but Angela Hardy gives Letitia such life and individuality that it largely convinces. Angus Miller's Doricourt, meanwhile, has an air of befuddled haughtiness that makes him more likeable than he might be.
Conlon's Courtall almost needs a moustache to twirl, so melodramatically conniving is he, but the role is discharged with considerable glee, and contrasts excellently with the same performer's portrayal of the character's more sober father the Bailie.
In the end – despite the contemporary parallels – any attempts at universality come second here to more home-grown concerns. It is difficult to imagine a production that, for example, gets big laughs simply by using the word 'fantoosh' travelling that well.
There are more than enough laughs here, however. Indeed, there may be more than expected – the only real problem at the moment is an impatience that leads some of the cast to tread on the laughter and lines can be lost as a result. That will surely settle down, adding to a production that already has a wonderful comic rhythm thanks to an excellent ensemble and a director at the top of his game.
Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval
|You are subscribed to email updates from All Edinburgh Theatre.com. |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States|