This is a fast-paced high energy production directed by Loveday Ingram which is great fun to watch
and to listen to. Action spills all over the stage and there is lots of singing and dancing as it is set at
carnival time. The music is Spanish in style and there is lots of it. The costumes are Spanish and
Joseph Millson portrays the main character, Willmore, the only character to have relationships with
two women, with gusto in piratical swashbuckling style and there is plenty of energetic acting to
complement his physical agility.
The style overall is appropriately informal with some witty asides and clever jokes as well as
interaction with audience members which keeps those in the front row alert and on their guard.
The four couples are nicely differentiated enabling Aphra Behn to make a study of the relationships
with regard to sexual attraction, love, lust, honesty and deceit. Of course because she constructs
the play by comparing the behaviour of the couples time and time again, there are some moments
when one is tempted to count how many have had their moments and therefore how many there are to
go before the plot can move on. But this is a small price to pay for some very entertaining scenes.
Blunt’s duping by the prostitute Lucetta is one end of the failed relationship spectrum and they are not
really essential to the plot, but discombobulated Blunt is splendidly played by Leander Deeny in a
virtuoso performance which makes the character more than bearable. At the other end of the
relationship spectrum is Belvile, believable and very well played by Patrick Robinson who displayed
bsome chemistry with Frances McNamee’s Florinda, particularly in their very well played
reconciliation scene at the end.
Faye Castelow’s Helena is a joy to watch and to listen to. I had not realised before how closely she
and Willmore are based on Beatrice and Benedick. This interpretation makes her more credible than
most Helenas and her interaction with Willmore is great fun to watch.
Women in this play have the upper hand and Ingram brings out Behn’s proto-feminism well
throughout the play. Famous courtesan Angelica Bianca played by Alexandra Gilbreath several times
asserts her dominance from the beautifully designed wrought iron balcony but I was a little
disappointed that when she was at stage level she did so much shouting. We could get to understand
Helena, but I wasn’t able to understand Angelica; I thought she asserted all the time rather than
Demonstrating. In some ways she is the most interesting character in Aphra Behn’s play but she
isn’t in this production. Even her lovely crimson velvet dress smelt like caricature. Jamie Wilkes
made an attempt to give Don Antonio some character but he was not as effective here as in Two
Noble Kinsman, I thought.
Swashbuckling fun though it was, I still came away thinking about love, sex, trust, honesty and
Relationships which makes me think that this is a really good production.