Restoration comedy is an acquired taste, a bit like Shakespeare. You have to love the language and not be averse to a few smutty jokes.
Some in this genre are famous but this is a rare gem, not seen in Australia before. It has all the usual ingredients: brash young men try to gain their fortune, lonely wives, drunken husbands and a beautiful heroine. Mix all of this with a few shady characters, a disreputable innkeeper and an old wife who can cure everything wrong with you, even if it is not, and you have a bawdy romp your hands.
Originally written over 300 years ago by George Farquhar, this lively piece stayed hidden and largely inaccessible for many years until it was adapted for the modern stage by Ken Ludwig and Thornton Wilder, making the language easier. It looks at money, marriage and the battle between the sexes. Oh, how little has changed!
Stirling Players, through the direction of Dave Simms, have done a marvellous job. The atmosphere is just right, complimented by the lighting and sound, courtesy of Sally Putman and crew. The costumes are stunning, fitting the era so well and kudos should go to Viki Burrett and her team: Rob Andrewartha, Anna Baker, Jane Bleby and Jasmin Muller, who did such a great job. The stage was dressed to suit the fast pace of the play and moved like clockwork under the guiding had of Ushmo. Add to this a well-drilled acting ensemble and the picture is complete.
The rogues out to win the ladies hearts and fortunes are played by James Edwards and Adam Tuominen, both experienced leading men. Edwards brings a quiet quality to the role of Tom Aimwell whilst Tuomnen’s brashness and flirtatious attitude are just right for Jack Archer. Lindy Le Cornu steals the stage with comedy as Lady Bountiful, with her wicked descriptions of her treatments and her equipment. Folks were lucky to survive her ministrations.
Peter Smith gives a fine performance as the innkeeper, Boniface, but saves the really hilarious for his “French priest”. The lovely ladies are played by Rosie Williams (Boniface’s daughter Cherry), Anna Bampton is Mrs Kate Sullen (the object of Aimwell’s affection), and Kate van der Horst is the beautiful apple of Jack’s eye, Dorinda. They all use the language well and carry the message of women’s rights with conviction. Debbie Tester is a typical Country Lady and carries off the small parts well.
The villains are just as well played. Joshua Coldwell (Sullen) is every inch a drunken, uncouth bully who treats his wife as his chattel, and Alan Crawford (Gloss) is a slimy, untrustworthy cad – although both I’m sure are very nice off stage. As Scrub, Brian Godfrey gets to play his favourite type of character – an unkempt, uncouth bawdy servant. Servants get the best exit lines!
As Sir Charles Freeman, Kate’s brother, Matt Houston gets to save the day. How? Well you’ll have to journey up to Stirling this Friday or Saturday to find out.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Stirling Community Theatre, Avenue Road, Stirling
Season: 20 February – 7 March 2015
Duration: 2hr 20mins
Tickets: $14 – $20
Bookings: Book online through the Stirling Players website or phone 0414 075 413
Disclaimer: Actor Brian Godfrey is a regular Arts contributor to Glam Adelaide.