Tag Archives: Dominica Plummer

The Game of Love and Chance

The Game of Love and Chance

★★★★

Arcola Theatre

The Game of Love and Chance

The Game of Love and Chance

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 19th July 2021

★★★★

 

“The Arcola Theatre continues its well deserved reputation for offering quality theatre with this show”

 

Pierre de Marivaux’s classic comedy The Game of Love and Chance has just opened in a sparkling revival at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney. The eighteenth century script is newly adapted by Quentin Beroud and Jack Gamble (who also directed) and brought up to date in a modern dress production. Staged outdoors (a blessing on a hot and sticky July night) there is a lot to enjoy in this show, and the energetic performances of the cast of six.

The plot of The Game of Love and Chance is simple enough. It’s a classic because of the way in which Marivaux sets it up, and then turns the screws by introducing complication after complication. Sylvia, a wealthy and aristocratic young woman, is expecting a visit from her betrothed, Dorante, whom she has never met. Sylvia begs her father for an opportunity to get to know him without his knowledge of who she really is. She wants to change places with her maid Lisette. She is a typical Enlightenment woman, more afraid of a man’s mind (or lack of it) than his heart. Her father Orgon readily agrees, having just received a letter from Dorante’s father proposing that Dorante woo Sylvia, also dressed in a servant’s disguise. Both fathers want to give their children the chance to fall in love without the distraction of wealth or family position. Of course it all gets hilariously convoluted before Dorante and Sylvia (and their servants Lisette and Harlequin) are happily, and appropriately, mated in their “game of love and chance.”

The Game of Love and Chance owes a lot to the Italian tradition of commedia dell’arte, and despite the modernized setting, adaptors Beroud and Gamble have remained true to that. There are multiple opportunities for lazzi, or comic routines, both on and off stage. The set, designed by Louie Whitemore, and tucked into a corner of the Arcola Outside, is the perfect space for all the comic business that must enacted before the lovers are finally united. “Marivaudage “ or the banter that Marivaux’s dramas are famous for, is also present, not only on stage, but also in the delicious back and forth that Lisette (played by Beth Lilly) engages in with the audience. The script keeps the audience laughing with a lively mix of rhymes (“humble crumble”), seemingly on the spot improvisation, and opportunities for sight gags. The actors are clearly enjoying themselves performing it, and spread that joy around the auditorium.

And it is the performances that really make this revival shine. Updating dramas from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can always be problematic in that they seem just modern enough for us to understand intuitively, but then there is all that class warfare business and discomfort with the idea of arranged marriages to overcome, before we can truly relax and enjoy the situation. Beroud and Gamble’s modernization of The Game of Love and Chance is not immune from the dilemmas of translating the eighteenth century to the twenty-first. Some of the solutions do seem a bit trite. Fortunately for us, however, the cast of this adaptation of The Game of Love and Chance know just how to settle us down. The whole cast works well as an ensemble, but the couple who really hold the whole thing together are the boisterously funny Ellie Nunn as Sylvia and Ammar Duffus as her lover Dorante, or, as the hilariously and spontaneously named Catflap, in his servant disguise. (You have to be paying attention to the set to see how this comes about.) Nunn and Duffus play effortlessly off one another, but it’s Duffus’ intense sincerity that keeps the whole situation grounded when the comic complications threaten to get out of hand. Beth Lilly and Michael Lyle (as Harlequin) are the other pair of seemingly mismatched lovers, and manage their lazzi (and Marivaudage) with confidence and flair. David Acton, as Sylvia’s genial father Orgon, and George Kemp as her annoying brother Marius, complete the energetic team.

The Arcola Theatre continues its well deserved reputation for offering quality theatre with this show, and it’s always worth the journey to see what they are producing. The Game of Love and Chance could be seen as a bit of an outlier in their repertoire, but if you’ve never seen Marivaux’s work, and are curious, this is a decent introduction. Just remember to take cold water with you if it’s a hot night. Laughter is thirsty work.

 

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Alex Brenner

 

The Game of Love and Chance

Arcola Theatre until 7th August

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Narcissist | ★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Ladybird Heard

★★★★

Palace Theatre

The Ladybird Heard

Palace Theatre

Reviewed – 17th July 2021

★★★★

 

“a pleasurable distraction during the dog days of summer”

 

It’s school holidays again, and despite the pandemic, it’s the time of year when parents look around for something to do with the kids. This year, producers Kenny Wax and Matthew Gregory have answered the parental call for help with What the Ladybird Heard. The sixty minute show, now showing at the Palace Theatre in London’s West End, is based on the best selling children’s book by Julia Donaldson (story) and Lydia Monks (pictures). It’s about the right length for the kindergartner and primary school set. Bringing this well loved character and her farmyard friends to the stage is a shrewd move on Wax and Gregory’s part. What the Ladybird Heard is perfect summer material to welcome the winter pantomime and Christmas audiences back into the theatre. The cast of four (with a last minute appearance of the ASM as a policeman) has an easy and skilled connection with the audience. It’s a pleasure to watch them show off their acting, dancing and musical abilities.

That said, if there is one weakness, it is the way the story has been dramatized. There are lots of engaging touches, including the set, designed by Bek Palmer, and based on Lydia Monks’ pictures from the book. The way in which the animals are created by the actors from bits and pieces scattered randomly around is fun to watch. The fourth member of the cast, farmhand Raymond (doubling as the dastardly burglar Lanky Len), appears to be an usher randomly recruited from the auditorium, much to the audience’s delight. The songs, composed by Jolly Good Tunes, are just that. And Howard Jacques has an abundance of nice lines in his lyrics. Nevertheless, What the Ladybird Heard is, at its heart, a story about stopping a crime. The Ladybird, with her farmyard helpers, has to stop the Farmer’s prizewinning cow from being stolen by a couple of thieves. It’s a dramatic situation, with the right amount of suspense for a satisfying denouément. But the plot takes a while to get going. There’s a lot of business about introducing the story, instead of just plunging straight in. It’s also unclear whether this is going to be a new story about the Ladybird, or just a rehash of the first story in the series. There is a strong feeling that there isn’t really enough material in the book to fill sixty minutes of stage time, even with all the singing, dancing and audience participation.

Ultimately, What the Ladybird Heard works because of its cast. Director Graham Hubbard makes the most of the talents of Roddy Lynch (Farmer), Nikita Johal (Lily/Ladybird), Matthew McPherson (Hefty Hugh) and James Mateo-Salt (Lanky Len), and the team does not disappoint. From building puppets to playing musical instruments, singing and dancing, the actors are up for any challenge, and that includes managing the audience. They are particularly adept at handling the show’s educational aspect, which is all about identifying the animals and pairing them up with the appropriate animal sound—crucial to the plot. The actors also work hard at helping the audience spot the ladybird, who is as thrifty in her appearances, as she is in her words.

If you are looking for a pleasurable distraction during the dog days of summer, take your kids (or someone else’s) to What the Ladybird Heard. The Palace Theatre staff are well organized for a visit to the theatre, and that includes the hardworking front of house team who are doing their best to manage social distancing and good hygiene practices, both inside and outside the theatre.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by David Monteith-Hodge 

 


The Ladybird Heard

Palace Theatre until 29th August then UK tour continues. Details whattheladybirdheardlive.co.uk

 

Recently reviewed by Dominica:
Public Domain | ★★★★ | Online | January 2021
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice | ★★★ | Online | February 2021
Adventurous | ★★½ | Online | March 2021
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
Stags | ★★★★ | Network Theatre | May 2021
Overflow | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
L’Egisto | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | June 2021
Doctor Who Time Fracture | ★★★★ | Unit HQ | June 2021
In My Own Footsteps | ★★★★★ | Book Review | June 2021
Wild Card | ★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | June 2021
Luck be a Lady | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | June 2021
Starting Here, Starting Now | ★★★★★ | Waterloo East Theatre | July 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews