Love Riot, Miracle Theatre, ECOS Frome and touring

IT’S good to see the Cornish-based Miracle Theatre back on the summer touring circuit, and this year they have chosen what they describe as a reimagining of Hannah Cowley’s play The Belle’s Stratagem and entitled it Love Riot. The company has been touring a huge variety of plays over more than two decades, so it is difficult to pinpoint its USP, but whatever it is, this isn’t it.

Instead of a classic (most recently Miracle has done The Cherry Orchard, The Tempest, Godot, Earnest ….) or an original written by founder Bill Scott, they have called on former cast member Sally Crooks to direct this amusingly riotous story of a stroppy 18th century would-be heiress and her aversion to a long-arranged marriage to a man she doesn’t love. Over the course of two frantic days in London, two arch-arrangers, the Kenneth Williams-ish Flutter and the happy widow Mrs Racket, preside over plots that will bring true lovers together and ensure that bounders get their come-uppance.

There are lots of quick changes of costumes, voices, gaits and characters as the five actors romp their way through a production that gives more than a nod to Bridgerton and ends with a bit of very modern homily. But not before two men are, none too gently, taught the error of their ways by their spirited ladies and everyone has a chance for masqued intrigue at a society ball.

Hannah Cowley was born in Tiverton, Devon, in 1743, and her play, a skit on Farquhar’s The Beaux Stratagem, was first performed in 1780 at the 2,000 seater theatre Drury Lane. Queen Charlotte loved it so much that she decreed it should be performed once a season for the Royal Family. It was groundbreaking in its day, presenting strong and intelligent women determined to take some control of their lives. The Miracle reworking retains the original names, and much of the plot, spiced up with a bit of modern music and movement.

The cast – Miracle regular Daniel Richards as a hilariously lascivious Courtall, the beetle mad Sir George and Letitia Hardy’s father, gap-year student Millie Montgomery-Smith as the madly determined Letty, Charlotte Merriam as Mrs Racket, Danny Mellor as Flutter and Doricourt and Sophia Dear as the beetle-bound Fanny – are having a great time interacting with their audiences and wringing every double-entendre to near death. It’s very fast and very funny.

The tour continues until the end of August. See the Arts Diary for more details, or visit the Miracle website.


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