EVERY Spring the newest batch of students at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School introduce themselves to the public with a touring show, and it has built up an eager following among audiences across the south west.
This year those audiences are in for a treat and a half.
Paul Clarkson’s production of Farquhar’s lastingly hilarious The Beaux Stratagem has been given a makeover. Without giving too much of the game away, this really IS a show to appeal to all generations.
The director has lost none of the original language or story, but has tipped the wink at what a group of teenage and 20-something students might make of it in the 21st century, even including the music.
The Beaux Stratagem is the story of two young chancers, down to the last few pounds of their inheritance, out to hook a rich bride, or, failing that, to jump a boat to the continent. Set in Litchfield in 1707, its characters also include an unhappy young wife anxious to dispose of her drunken sot of a husband, his sister, an Irishman pretending to be a French curate, a trio of Gentlemen of the Road and an innkeeper and his lovely daughter.
The director was keen (in the programme) to highlight the fact that divorce was almost unknown at this time, and that Mrs Sullen was a trailblazer for emancipation.
Seeing it at the BOVTS home base of the Redgrave is always different from catching the tour at a village hall or arts centre, in that the audience is full of fellow students who respond to the actors as much as their performances, and whooping and squeaking is the current fashionable way to express approval.
As always, the set must be easily portable, ready to fit into the many difference spaces on offer. This one is a simple wooden dais, a beautiful backdrop, some empty frames and some costume baskets. They double up as a bar, a bedroom, a salon, a picture gallery.
The ten young actors have thrown themselves into the spirit of the show, and it’s a delight to watch them change character before your eyes.
Look out for Corey Montague Sholay (who’s already been in East Enders) refining his craft at Bristol as innkeeper Bonniface (as the saying is) and the lusty Gipsy.
Dylan Wood is an elegant and smooth Archer, with Tom Bailey as the lovestruck Aimwell.
Jessica Nicklin also has a chance to explore her male and female sides as the priceless Foigard and a country woman, and Jennifer Haynes and Alais Morie play Dorinda and Mrs Sullen as very modern women.
Whitney Kehinde is the dependable Cherry, with Maanuv Thiara an obnoxious Squire Sullen and a burglar with a difference.
Don’t miss the chance to see this sparklingly entertaining show, coming to a venue near you. (see below for details of the tour)
Photographs by Graham Burke
The Beaux Stratagem is at the Regal Theatre in Minehead on Monday 22nd June, Burnham On Sea on Tuesday 23rd, Wells Little Theatre on Thursday 25th, Frampton Village Hall on Saturday 27th and The Exchange at Sturminster Newton on Sunday 28th June, the final date in our region
For full details, visit the BOVTS website, www.oldvic.ac.uk