Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Review • LONDON ASSURANCE • Richmond Theatre [tour] • 2008

Richmond Theatre © Sarah Vernon

Richmond Theatre © Sarah Vernon

Dion Boucicault supposedly wrote London Assurance – his debut play – when he was only 20 years old. The original manuscript took a mere 30 days, and he later admitted to doubts about the quality of the finished product. These doubts were well founded. Despite flashes of wit, it’s a highly derivative work that draws as much from Much Ado About Nothing as it does from Sheridan’s early work. Described as a kind of practice run for The Importance of Being Earnest, it has nothing of that play’s charm or finesse.

The lack of charm isn’t helped by Nikolai Foster’s clunky direction, and the decision to camp-up the lead roles. Gerard Murphy is particularly grating as Sir Harcourt Courtly, a preening, self-deluding fop around whom the farce revolves. Grace Harkaway (Clare Corbett) is the savvy beauty doomed to marry him, and Charles Courtly – son of Harcourt – is her love interest. Harkaway’s servant Pert (Vivien Reid) sports a dodgy Scottish accent, while Nigel Hastings gives a one-dimensional performance as conniving lawyer Mark Meddle.

All the comedy staples are here, from mistaken identity to double-crossing and a near-disastrous wedding, but with so little attention paid to the script’s subtleties, there’s a seen-it-all-before feel. The fact that it’s structurally messy brings about more problems. The narrative doesn’t kick in for forty minutes, by which time things have near ground to a halt.

Relief arrives in the form of Geraldine McNulty, who makes her first appearance shortly before the interval. She plays Lady Gay Spanker, a sharp-tongued country gentlewoman who quickly whips the men into shape. Spanker’s mismatched husband is similarly entertaining, a jockey (Spanker is obsessed with hunting) whose meekness is matched only by his wife’s outspokenness. Christopher Ryan – best known for his role in The Young Ones – is great fun, and the second act is all the more watchable for it.

Philip Whitcomb’s set is reminiscent of a child’s music box, lending the play a childhood resonance. The tinkling music adds to the overall sense of playfulness, as if the characters themselves are at the mercy of some oversized child (which in a way, they are). Of course, Harcourt eventually grows up, and is able to sacrifice beautiful Harkaway – forty years his junior – to his son, whom she happily marries. The action picks up from the second half, and the finale is nearly – if not quite – satisfying.

Overall, it’s a mixed bag. While the play’s overriding liberalism is refreshing (Harkaway is blessed with a Beatrice-like pragmatism) it’s an ill-paced, untidy affair. This, coupled with the casting errors – neither Hastings nor Murphy is right for his part – means that sections of the play fall flat. Foster favours a slapstick approach, and the play’s finer nuances are overlooked. A lighter, more sophisticated touch would better draw out the play’s themes; it would also give the minor characters more of an opportunity to shine. However, for McNulty alone it’s almost worth it, if only as a reminder of how good this play could be.

Harriet Davis © 2008

Originally published on R&V 13-06-08

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Polly's Paper Studio

Vintage Inspired Paper Crafts & Digital Design

Robin King

I make faces.

Life on La Lune

A journey through life in Southwest France

Vanessa Couchman

Historical Fiction with a French Flavour

Disability & Determination

It isn't being John Malkovich, but it is being me

Nicholas Andriani

Musings of a Wandering Scholar | Writer - Educator

Joe Ruggiero at Home

Daily Reflections from My Home and Garden

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Genealogy Jude

Unlocking the Door to Your Past

Jack Monroe

The #1 budget recipe website

Stevie Turner

Realist, writer, reader, reviewer and rocker.

The Stuff They Won't Include in Any Tourist Guide: The Real England

The Real England is a concise, direct, and not-so-gentle window into the depths of the leftovers of the world’s once greatest empire. It is told from the perspective of one lone (or not so lone) long term visitor. It informs one of the dregs of the country and helps to explain quaint British oddities such as the crack addicted chav.

Postcards from

home and away...

S.O.U.L. S-P-A-C-E

Artists, Writers and Visionaries Blog on the Unique and Ordinary

The Lady Sews

Collected works and other excuses from a textile obssessive

coelsblog

Defending Scientism

@KellyOSullivan

has random thoughts

Criminal Historian

Working with dead people

Jemsbooks

Writing - Loving What I Do and Doing What I Love!

Noir

the darker side to sedge808

Off Center & Not Even

Photographs, music and writing about daily life. Contact: elcheo@swcp.com

Reina Cottier Art

Creative Intuitive from New Zealand

Tenafly Road

Family Saga Fiction by Adrienne Morris

johnrieber

Burgers, Books, Music, Movies, Offbeat Adventures & Pop Culture!

Etan Smallman

Freelance journalist

Assemblage Art

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Candia Comes Clean

Candid cultural comments from the Isles of Wonder

blackwings666

Horror, Science Fiction, Comic Books and More

The Wandering Empath

Traveling the World Through Others

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

penwithlit

Art, Literature, Poetry, Politics and a little History

Jet Eliot

Travel and Wildlife Adventures

Judith Barrow

Writer & Author

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

Doodlewash®

Adventures in Watercolor Painting and Sketching, Watercolour Magazine, with Charlie O'Shields

Luanne Castle's Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory

Life in Russia

The Bridge between two countries

London Life With Liz

A lifestyle blog with a little bit of everything.

Brotherly Love

A personal exploration of autism from a brother’s perspective, including family relationships, philosophy, neuroscience, mental health history and ethics

Alex Raphael

Entertainment, travel and lifestyle blog

Teagan's Books

Founder of the Three Things Method of Storytelling

%d bloggers like this: