Ring Round the Moon at Yeovil Swan

RRTM 3JEAN Anouilh’s satirical play Invitation to the Castle was first performed in France in 1947, and adapted three years later by Christopher Fry for a Peter Brook production in London.

For many years it was a favourite with touring rep companies and amateur dramatic societies, but now it is something of a rarity.
The extraordinarily versatile Swan Theatre Company in Yeovil has put this to rights with a sparkling production, on stage until (unusually) Friday 22nd May.

The scene is literally set by the wonderful art deco designs of Annetta Broughton, and underlined by Sheila Driver’s choreography.

Director Andy Wood describes the choice in his programme notes as a nod to the appetite for all things Downtonesque, and you can see why.

Set in the Winter Garden of a chateau near Deauville in the 1920s, it is the story of physically identical and morally opposite twins Hugo and Frederic, and how women endlessly want to reform the bad guys. Dangerously bored Hugo wants to save his shy brother Frederick from the clutches of an American heiress, while ignoring the fact that he wants her for himself. So he hires a pretty young dancer and introduces her as the belle of the ball.

With a cast of 15, there’s lots going on all the time, and even the Boris Johnson-like footman and the maid get their moment in the limelight.

RRTM 4To bring this off with the necessary panache a company needs an exceptional man to play the twins, and who could be better than Shaun Driver, a performer who started as a remarkable dancer and has developed his skills as an all-round actor and singer before the eyes of lucky Yeovil audiences. Ring Round the Moon is not a farce, but the transformations from Hugo to Frederick call for farce timing, and Shaun has it, as well as terrific dancing and a face so expressive that words are often rendered unnecessary.
He’s matched here by Jess Payne, whose father is a Swan stalwart and who has grown up to play the unfortunate Isabella.

promptRRTM 11Her social climbing mother is played with huge humour by Rachel Butcher. Tricia Wood rules the roost from her wheelchair – a wise old aunt who can tip the wheel of fate when the time comes.

The rest of the excellent cast all play their part in the telling of this complicated story of love and class and money.

And few professional companies could do it better than the Swan cast.


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