The Plain Dealer

‘ … a great fun evening, and a welcome chance to enjoy a less well-known comedy from a fascinating period.’

The Plain Dealer

Droll and Folly Theatre

At Brighton Open Air Theatre until June 11th 2017

Captain Manley has just about had it with society and all its fakery. His mistress has married his mate, his serving boy’s got something to hide and all his acquaintance seem mixed up in legal and lustful shenanigans.

Comedy has long DNA strands, and William Wycherley’s 1676 play has its roots in Molière’s Le Misanthrope, with touches of Twelfth Night, and in turn influences so many eighteenth century works, too. The Restoration archetypes are all there – the fop and the dandy, the rich widow with her eye on the younger chancer, the scheming lady and her confidante – and lightly updated in black and white modern dress, with laptops and mobiles, modern references and some salty language, the bed-hopping tale and legal setting still resonate today.

Actors ad lib and comment around the dialogue, chat to and jump into the audience, tussle and fight in this fresh, funny and entertaining new production from Nicholas Quirke.

Highlights include Colin Elmer’s snide Kenny Everett-channelling dandy, Simon Helyer’s bluff northern sailor and the struggle between Tom Dussek’s rape-intending snake Vernish and Amy Sutton’s Fidelia, the lovelorn maiden in disguise.

Huge respect to Joanna Rosenfeld who’s stepped in at the very last moment to replace a lost actress, and plays a very creditable script-in-hand save in the role of Olivia.

It’s just under three hours including interval, and the running time could be tightened up by picking up the pace around entrances and dialogue cues. BOAT’s long thin performance space means scenes played upstage can be a long way from the audience at the front of the stage, so occasionally dialogue is a little lost, but the moments when actors approach the audience to confide are very immediate and engaging.

It’s a great fun evening, and a welcome chance to enjoy a less well-known comedy from a fascinating period.

A BOAT note: Brighton’s open air theatre has become a star of the summer season here in the two years since it opened. Check the weather and bring your own comforts, as you sit directly on the terraces. I had a mat, cushion and cover and used them all. There’s a little bar and you can bring a picnic and refreshments, too.

Philippa Hammond