The Beaux' Strategem, Oliver Theatre, National Theatre, London. September 2015.
After the sadness of War Horse a restoration romp seemed just the thing to see next and I'm pleased to report that Rebecca and I had a great time at the final performance of this comedy.
I think it took me slightly longer to warm to the play than Rebecca in the first instance but very quickly I was swept away in the complicated, multi-stranded plot.
Aimwell and Archer have wasted all of their money in London and are thus taking to the provinces in an attempt to find rich wives who's money will support their chosen lifestyle. Aimwell is impersonating his older, titled, brother and Archer is acting as a high class personal gentleman as they put into play their strategy - hence the play's title.
In addition to this we have a corrupt landlord involved in all sorts of crimes, imprisoned French officers and their priest and the ladies of the grand house who Archer and Aimwell have in their sights. There is also an unhappy marriage, brought about by the need for money...
It sounds complicated and until you have grasped who is who, fortunately there is very little role doubling, it seems a little bit of a mess but quickly it is clear what a clever piece of writing this actually is.
In many ways this felt a very Shakespearean play, far more so than the other Farquhar play (The Recruiting Officer) that I have seen. There was a lot of song, very bawdy humour, a dead pan servant, a jig at the end and a very neat (improbable) tying up of the loose ends to make the finale. This isn't a criticism, just something I wasn't expecting from a Restoration Comedy.
The set and costumes were sumptuous in this production and the cast were very obviously having a good time - I do wonder if this was heightened as it was a last performance as there was some, hastily recovered, corpsing on occasion.
All in all this was a real mood boost play, with a few things to think about afterwards thrown in for good measure. It has also left me with a craving for trifle.