School for Wives, White Bear 07 March

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Dress rehearsal picture from Mercurius site

The School for Wives has the typical old fool and young wife plot, except here he’s bought her at a very tender age and  brought her up to be stupid and innocent.  But of course young love triumphs.  Moliere even wrote it at about the time he married Armande Bejart, twenty years younger than himself, and it gave him his first big success.

This updating by Neil Bartlett frequently had a packed house helpless with laughter, and Tom Barratt as Arnold [formerly Arnolphe] used the proximity of the audience very effectively in some nearly-unhinged monologues.  The centre of interest here was certainly the discomfiture and even disintegration of  Arnold, rather than the young lovers’ troublesome path to a happy ending.

The adaptation was very good and rhymed a satisfying number of times, while the production (director Jenny Eastop) was clear and direct and made very good use of the White Bear space.  I enjoyed many incidental felicities, such as the servant Alan [Alain] becoming a truculent but mercenary Scotsman and the turn by Stephen Good at the beginning as a very upper-class Chrysalde [no change of name].  While the other servant Georgette got to keep her name, and a French maid’s outfit as well.  Also the jeune premier Jonathon Reid was very fetching in red trousers…

This blog urges you to go along to the White Bear and have a very good time at this show.

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