Photo by Graham Burke
2015 has turned into the year of Restoration comedy in Bristol and it’s easy to see why. In a time when apps such as Tinder and Grindr have made it increasingly easy to obtain an illicit hook-up, the world the Restoration concentrates on; of bed hopping and covert affairs is one that one can easily relate to in the 21st century. The London Cuckolds may have the distinction of being the filthiest of them all and the Bristol Old Vic International MA students have tackled this in all its sexually frank glory.
Edward Ravenscroft’s comedy see’s three wives, three bachelors and three cuckolded husband and mixes them up into a number of different melanges. Everyone is having as much fun as they can apart from the poor husbands but they’re beige bankers and so who cares (hurrah!). The couplings go round in circles, some thwarted, others interrupted mid coitus with some even getting to finish what they started. It’s a bedroom farce and definite inspiration for the likes of Feydeau and Brian Rix but the fundamental problem is there is no depth to the work as Ravenscroft does not let his characters grow. They finish as they have started, with no consequences and no lessons learnt. It’s a seductive place to be though and with some top ups by playwright Terry Johnson the piece flies along and is a wonderfully rambunctious three hours, as though we have wandered into Eastcheap Inn and been offered a cask or five by Falstaff. Tropes are ticked off regularly: slamming doors, errant lovers hiding under bed-sheets, in the dark fumbles with the wrong lover, swords being drawn, chamber pots being emptied over heads and the funniest use of the word ‘no’ for seduction you will see.
Kim Durham’s production is fluid and well-spoken, and odd inflection and cast member aside, they manage to do a good job of maintaining English accents. Like their fellow graduates on other BOV courses they’re a well drilled ensemble and feel more than ready to go out and conquer. Marc-Antoine Kelertas and Matt Dawson strut, svelte and pose as though they’re hoping to land a couple of new vacancies in the BBC Musketeers whilst Kara Chamberlain, Vanessa Labrie and Sarah Sawyer have fun as the various women in their lives. Aussie Tori Walker is the standout though, a busty mischievous maid whose eyes light up as she gets to strip her mistresses potential lover and a prim and proper English aunt with a hint of Lady Bracknell and a flaming frying pan weapon to boot.
It’s the most fun I’ve had seeing Restoration comedy but a lesser play than Love for Love playing concurrently at the Old Vic. My advice go see with a beer and a date, it’s the theatre equivalent of a Seth Rogen movie!