Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"The Beaux' Stratagem" / Young Artists Festival

My birthday treat this year was a trip to London’s Royal National Theatre to see a production of George Farquhar’s “The Beaux Stratagem” (on a £15 Travelex deal). My first Restoration Comedy, and I was expecting an educative experience rather than an entertaining one, but as it turned out, it was a great deal of fun.

The story involves two impoverished gentlemen from London, coming to Lichfield in order to find wealthy wives. Along the way, via the involvement of some thieves, they prove themselves to be worthy and capable of actual love. Written in 1707, while Farquhar was on his death-bed, it is a late entry in the genre.

Director Simon Godwin, in conjunction with dramaturg Patrick Marber, seem to have hit on the perfect formula for making a piece like this work for the popular audience – ensure that as much of the comedy as possible is physical (drunkenness, falling over, swordplay etc) and focus on the off-colour jokes. Any contemporary relevance will then emerge from the text: in this case, the theme is the inequality between men and women when it comes to marriage.

The cast, as one might expect, is excellent, a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar, all seeming to enjoy themselves. The live band was occasionally integrated into the action, to humorous effect. There are even Welsh connections, with Royal Welsh College graduate Amy Morgan playing the feisty barmaid, and the climactic comedy fight scene, choreographed by Kev McCurdy, earning a round of applause. They didn’t quite solve the problem of the comedy Irishman, though.

Actually very funny, and well worth the trip.

Pearce Quigley & Geoffrey Streatfeild in "The Beaux' Stratagem" (photo by Manuel Harlan)

A few days earlier, I was lucky enough to attend the final night of the Young Artists’ Festival, run by The Other Room at Porters’ in Cardiff city centre. This featured five new short plays by Tracy Harris, Kelly Jones, Tim Price, Neil Bebber and Matt Hartley, all featuring young performers, most with a social media theme. As I suggested in my report for the British Theatre Guide, Price’s “I Feel Sexy All The Time” was the most immediate success in terms of audience appreciation, but they all provided much food for thought, and the event as a whole suggests that Wales won’t be running out of actors any time soon.

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