The Way to Keep Him

This play has a great plot. Grieved by her husband's infidelity, the virtuous Mrs Lovelace goes to the house of his mistress, Mrs Bellmore, to confront her. Yet upon arrival, she is met by two surprises: firstly, that Mrs Bellmore has no knowledge of Mr Lovelace; secondly, that behind the glamour the famous widow-cum-mistress (a sort of eighteenth century It Girl) is in fact very sympathetic. An unexpectedly warm friendship ensues and when it emerges that Mr Lovelace has in fact been deceiving both of them - lying to his wife; using a pseudonym with his mistress - the two women scheme to bring about his humiliation.

There's some great acting on show here from Cheltenham Ladies' College. Mrs Lovelace is truly pathetic: her wide eyed earnestness ever convincing, never cutsie. Hers is a focused, intelligent performance - you can really hear her understanding of the language. The spicier role of Mrs Bellmore is also excellently portrayed. She's excellently snappy and sophisticated, and manages to be fast-talking without gabbling any of the lines. Smaller roles are just as memorably good: while the sometimes hysterical servant woman Mrs Malapert is played with an obvious enjoyment in the humour, the actress playing Sir Brilliant Fashion deserves particular credit - acting the forward, flirtatious rake in brilliant fashion.

If some of Mr Lovelace's lines are a little redolent of reading, gems such as 'It is not material, where a body eats' in response to his wife's request that he dine with her still raised a deserved laugh. Indeed, the audience are very much on Team Mrs Lovelace. As a result, the message at the end - that it is equally the fault of the wife if her husband is unfaithful - left a bitter aftertaste and one that made me think that, particularly from an all girls' school, playing it straight was perhaps a curious choice. Overall, however, this is a very impressive show: lively, amusing and intelligent.

Since you’re here…

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Performances

The Blurb

What do you do if, as a young wife, you find that your husband is fooling around with a rather attractive widow under an assumed name? One of the 18th-century's most popular comedies ensues.

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