As if so-called ‘Freedom Day’ had not generated enough excitement on Monday 19th July, the Arcola Theatre had its planned reopening that evening and showcased its fabulous new purpose-built,open-air performing area, appropriately named Arcola Outside, in order to avoid any confusion with the well-known one indoors and just around the corner.
the sort of frivolous nonsense needed on a glorious summer’s evening
A new building deserves a new play, or at least an adaptation of something that has probably not seen the light of day for many years. Associate directors at the theatre, Jack Gamble and Quentin Beroud, have come up with goods in their reworking of Pierre de Marivaux’s romantic comedy, The Game of Love and Chance; just the sort of frivolous nonsense needed on a glorious summer’s evening devoted to celebration and mirth.
The original of this play, Le Jeu de L'amour et du Hasard, was written by Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux and first performed in 1730 by the Comédie Italienne in Paris; the very middle of a twenty year period in which some twenty of Marivaux’ play were successfully performed and his novels greatly admired. He developed a style that became known as Marivaudage; an embroidered form of language with usurped metaphors and situations in which characters explain their thoughts to each other and hence the audience, often going into flights of fancy detached from reality.
Gamble and Beroud have taken the style and original story of finding suitable partners for the eligible sons and daughters of those distantly in line to the throne and set the comedy amongst the English aristocracy. The plot is pure farce. Sylvia (Ellie Nunn) is about to be visited by her suitor, Dorante (Ammar Duffus). With the permission of her father, Lord Orgon (David Acton), she decides that the best way to find out what he is really like is for her to change roles with her maid, Lisette (Beth Lilly). Little does she know that Dorante has had the same idea and has changed places with his driver, Harlequin (Michael Lyle). As the two pairs of would-be lovers pursue their amorous intentions Sylvia also makes use of her brother, Marius (George Kemp) to confuse the situation even further. Who will fall in love with whom? Will their true identities be discovered? Does it really matter, as this is just a good excuse for a two-hour romp through a theatrical genre that ceased to be widely fashionable years ago but is still jolly good fun?
The silliness begins with the cast running through the audience and ends with a musical number, exuberantly choreographed by Natasha Harrison. In between, with the fourth wall demolished, we are privy to all the thoughts and machinations of the characters, some indulgent asides and the sight of actors clearly enjoying every moment of this giddy production, as they chase around the the bright orange sofa and make their entrances and exits through two vivid doors of the same hue, courtesy of designer Louie Whitemore.They are all very much in this together and much of the action is a reminder of the days of stock characters in the Commedia dell'Arte. Yet each manages to give a modern twist that relates to a society that is still obsessed with social class.
For an evening of light-hearted enjoyment and to experience the new Arcola Outside it's worth a visit; it's like may not be seen again!