The London Cuckolds

Wed 16th – Sat 19th November 2011

reviews

Maureen Lennon

at 00:52 on 17th Nov 2011

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If you're looking for an evening of outstanding performance, farcical characters, good music, lavish set and costume and a truly ridiculous storyline then this is definitely the production for you. If you’re looking for a play that's going to challenge your preconceptions, or astonish you with its insight then this probably isn't it; but then again it's not pretending to be. Three husbands, three wives, and three dashing young men, engaging in deceit, flattery and a fair bit of sex (though not as much as some characters would desire). All the cast give extremely strong performances, amusing the audience as much through their physicality and delivery as any of the increasingly ludicrous twists in the plot. James Lewis, Thomas Gilbert and Oliver Gyani are more than suitably ridiculous as three old men, deliberately blind to their wives deceitfulness and ‘Cuckolded’ status, to hilarious effect. Oli Robinson, Edmund Philips and Sam Ramsay are at least equally good as their similarly ridiculous but much more energetic counterparts. The wives deserve a special mention, as do their extremely forbearing maids, particularly Rosalind Russell who more than successfully depicts Eugenia as the epitome of shammed religious piety, and Claudia Jolly who gives a truly vivacious performance as quick witted Arabella - particularly in the scene where she exploits her husband’s desire for her to reply only ‘no’. It would be a lie to say that over two hours the joke does not begin to wear a little thin, there are only so many times someone can fall out of a cupboard/tree/bed and provoke hilarity, however it's a credit to the cast that they manage to keep it fresh and funny throughout. Both the set and costume are impressive, and the presence of a live orchestra is a particularly nice touch, though perhaps slightly intrusive when used to underscore some of the dialogue. Overall it’s a well directed, well performed and well produced production which you shouldn’t hesitate to go see! It is just a slight shame that it’s a text without perhaps the depth, or complexity of theme which I’m sure a cast and crew of this calibre would have carried with ease.

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James Huntly

at 10:57 on 17th Nov 2011

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Edward Ravenscroft's The London Cuckolds represents everything that Restoration Comedy is. Men and Women behaving badly. It's the highest of the lowest-brow comedy to be found. But 'twixt each bedroom skirmish there is a sprightly dialogue and a vitality that isn't hard to imagine imbued the reopened theatres of 1660. This Spotlights production of a lesser known RC is a prime example of the delight to be had in such a performance.

With the strings of Purcell gracing our ears, we follow a trio of gentlemen, their three archetypal (and beautiful) wives, and a raunch of young rakes through London's grimy streets of cuckoldry. These three ludicrous husbands each believe they have discovered the qualities in their wives that ensure their fidelity; the first banks on simplicity, the second on wit, and the third on (supposed) piety. Of course, one wouldn't expect any of them to be right… and hilarity ensues as their wives fall prey to those lusty bachelors.

The first of which we see is Ned Ramble played most confidently by Oli Robinson. Our handsome hero despite all his enthusiastic panache is a rather unfortunate lover finding himself in the right place at the wrong time all too often whilst his drunkard comrade Frank Townley always seems to slip into the very bed that Ned tries so hard to ensconce himself. His boldness seduces the ladies and the audience alike. In fact I found the friendship and honesty between these two cads a high point of the show. One really doesn't feel so sorry for those pompous egotistical, and brilliantly casted, Aldermans when their wives fall for the boys.

After Terry Johnson's polishing of the original text we are left with a two word glossary in the programme; unfortunately we find that no work has to be put in to get the jokes. The audience mainly found themselves amused at the gesticulation of the characters and there were times when I tired of all this farce - it comes in at 2 and a half hours - and wished for something more subtle. Having said that, there are some truly hilarious moments. Which brings me on to the wives, all of which are played with virtuosity. Arabella's seductive "No" scene is timed to perfection by Claudia Jolly. As for the set design, I'm a little bemused. Why do these Gentlemen live in such ugly victorian terraced homes? Where this doesn't seem like a student production though is the elocution of the cast, which I imagine the director Elliot Ross has spent a lot of time on.

Whilst there isn't much to be learnt in this 'comedy of manners', I would advise anyone to watch this production for the cast alone. M'thinks it will cheer you up.

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