GEORGE Etheridge’s astonishingly amoral play for London’s 17th century selfie generation has a promenade production in a former Christian Scientist Church to mark the end of studies for a talented and versatile group of AUB students.
The Man of Mode is all about a rake, Doriment, whose popularity with the ladies is unbounded. He has one passionately devoted mistress and a few diversions on the side, but now he’s about to fall in love and marry. The question is, how to divest himself of his devoted admirers.
This was a time of gossip, amorous plots and obsessions with fashion … so the play is the perfect choice for the self-serving, social media-obsessed 21st century.
Director Luke Kernaghan used the entire main hall of the former church, moving the audience around the action in three main areas, backed by bold architectural drawings of Restoration London designed by Elle Pollock and realised by AUB design students.
The production gave not only an opportunity for this exceptional group of acting students, but also for those studying costume design. The programme lists the performers alongside the names of those who created their magnificent clothes, which were displayed to full effect during the “walk in the park” scene.
The spacious splendour of the venue was balanced by acoustic difficulties, which must have been particularly irksome for the performers who had put so much time into perfecting the style and accent of the time. It meant that several of the humorous lines were lost to most of the audience.
The stylish production, with its cast of 17 speaking characters and various maids and footmen, and its swirling action, provided a true showcase for the graduands, whose progress friends and families have been watching with keen interest over the past years.
There were outstanding characterisations, notably from Ryan Mann as Young Bellair and Gavin Richards as his lascivious father, Alex Pinard as Sir Foppling Flutter (the name says it all, and the performance is so very different from his unforgettable one in Festen), from Elisha Russell as Mrs Lovitt, Brogan du Plooy as Lady Townley and Lucy Redgrave as the spirited Harriet and from James Jollie as Doriment and his butler Handy (Niall Walker).
Some of the most memorable costumes were made by Andrea Westbye (Sir Foppling), Susanna Southgate (Lady Woodville), Olivia O’Grady (Bellair), Kelly Nichols (Lady Townley), Libby Willett (Emilia) and Megan Rarity (Mrs Lovett) as well as Eleanor Bird’s creations for Doriment and Krystina Ababurko’s for Mr. Medley
This was a stunning way to bring AUB studies to a close, and congratulations to them all.
As a footnote, either the audibility problems of the Meyrick Hall (and the Shelley Theatre), must be solved, or, for the sake of the students as much as the audience, other venues should be chosen.
Pictured is Krystina Ababurko’s costume for Mr. Medley