I am definitely finding my feet with solo theatre going, especially as my work in London peaks once again.
This week I decided to visit the National Theatre, another which caught my interest watching Frankenstein thanks to NT Live, and so I decided to buy tickets for The Beaux’ Stratagem. A restoration comedy, written by George Farquhar in 1707, and definitely not my comfort zone. I remember many years ago going to see She Stoops to Conquer, and really struggling. And now, well, a night out is not to be dismissed, and this was no different.
The first things of note are the folk band which support the play, cleverly incorporated which catches your eye from the off, alongside Lizzie Clachan’s wonderful multi-levelled set, which cleverly alternates between the play’s two main locations.
And so, the play begins. And as much as a few giggles escaped, before long they were out loud chortles.
Aimwell and Archer, two brothers who have come to Lichfield with the sole aim of recouping their fortune, to such an extent they are willing to take on the roles of master and servant in order to woo.
Played by Samuel Barnett and Geoffrey Streatfeild, there is a great chemistry which allows the pace of the play to work, and absolutely maximise the comic timing.
Susannah Fielding’s portrayal of Mrs Sullen offers everything you hope women of the eighteenth-century to be, although there is a strong possibility this strong, independent mind was not entirely welcomed in the day. Fielding is complemented by Dorinda (Pippa Bennett-Warner) and there are the most wonderful moments, on all emotional scales. As the play progresses you feel the wings grow of Dorinda’s every growing self-assurance, which in itself embraces the comedic pace.
Whilst the play brings laughter, it also seamlessly integrates the more serious, especially given the date of the play, theme of divorce, and of the independence of living. This more serious aspect does not standalone, it does not feel out of place, and yet there is a truth of how far from reality this freedom would be.
And for all of this, there is Scrub. What more can be said. Pierce Quigley brings to the character, and to the stage, the drudgery, the monotone, and the absolute laughter, of what life could be. And then of course there is his relationship with Martin Archer.
For everything I feared this could be, if made my walk back of lighter foot. There is nothing quite like laughter in a theatre to make the world a better place.
The Beaux’ Stratagem is at the National Theatre until 2o September. Box Office: 020 7452300 www.nationaltheatre.org.uk