Friday, 7 August 2015

'The Beaux' Stratagem' National Theatre, Olivier ****

With the National Theatre’s new area in full swing under the direction of Rufus Norris, the decision to stage a piece of Restoration Theatre is a pleasant one indeed where we’re witnessing a tale of two men who have lost their fortunes are endeavouring to seek out a possible wife to recuperate their dwindling wealth. The National Theatre’s production of George Farquhar’s 1707 play, ‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’ was a highly amusing revival and the performances were wonderfully portrayed.

‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’ is set in Lichfield, Staffordshire where we are familiarised with two young gentlemen, Aimwell and Archer who have ventured to the countryside after losing all their money in London. When they arrive at Boniface’s Inn, the landlord, Boniface (Lloyd Hutchinson) and his daughter, Cherry (Amy Morgan) welcome them in and give them an understanding of the prospects that could be on offer. Their arrival causes intrigue from Boniface and highwayman, Gibbet (Chook Sibtain) and his companions Hounslow (Mark Rose) and Bagshot (Esh Alladi) who assume that they are quite wealthy individuals. Moreover, Dorinda (Pippa Bennett-Warner) and her sister-in-law, Mrs Sullen are also interested in them too and over the course of the performance, we realise that Mrs Sullen is unhappy with her nuptials to heavy drinker husband, Mr Sullen (Richard Henders). When Mrs Sullen and Archer meet each other for the first time, there appears to be immediate feelings for one another as does Dorinda with Aimwell. Throughout the show, the French army have been imprisoned in Lichfield where Count Bellar (Timothy Watson) and the priest, Foigard (Jamie Beamish) we soon learn that Fiogard has been lying about his true nationality.  At the house of Lady Bountiful (Jane Booker), the mother of Mr Sullen and Dorinda, Archer and Mrs Sullen conjure up a plan to allow Mrs Sullen and her unloving husband to get a divorce. To do so she asks Gipsy (Molly Gromadzki) to send a telegram to her brother, Sir Charles Freeman (Nicholas Khan) about the state of her marriage. Aimwell decides to tell Dorinda the truth about his lack of finances and Archer does the same with Mrs Sullen too and thankfully they do not mind whatsoever. One night in the house of Lady Bountiful, the highwaymen try to steal some of Mr and Mrs Sullen’s possessions and a battle soon commences and the highwaymen obviously loose the fight and are captured and led away by Scrub (Pearce Quigley). At the finale, Sir Charles Freeman enters and forces Mr Sullen to divorce his wife and for her to retain her fortunes. Archer and Mrs Sullen become romantically involved and Dorina and Aimwell do the exact same thing.  Farquhar’s narrative is marvellously rib-tickling in terms of how the battles, false nationality and romantic activities combine together to present something so funny. 

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’ to be radiantly depicted through careful voice work by Jeanette Nelson and Michaela Kennen and movement direction by Jonathan Goddard.  Samuel Barnett is wonderful as untrue, Aimwell; chiefly at the moment where he is having a shot at tempting Dorinda to become his partner, additionally, his friendship with Archer is compelling to see. Geoffrey Streatfield is fabulous as Mrs Sullen’s saviour, Archer; especially when he talks about how his love with Mrs Sullen could prove problematic due to the circumstances but with repeated tries this comes into fruition at the end of the play.  Susannah Fielding is impressive as Mrs Sullen; such as how depressed she seems when she explains how her marriage to a drunken man is disgusting e.g. when he comes home drunk at the early hours of the morning. 

Simon Godwin’s direction is grand here as he has been able to interconnect all the character’s stories together in a seamless manner and his revival of this classic play does not disappoint as the ere are both humorous and some emotive scenes present. Lizzie Clachan’s set and costume designs are immensely opulent as the attention to detail in depicting the era of the show is tremendous, plus the transformation from inn to lavish country manor was very decent indeed. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’ to be undeniably pleasing and exceedingly watchable and a brilliant selection to include in the theatre’s repertoire.  

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