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The Marriage of Figaro

By Pierre Beaumarchais, adapted by Ranjit Bolt
The Watermill Theatre, Newbury
(2011)

The Marriage of Figaro production photo

The Watermill's The Marriage of Figaro by Poerre Beaumarchais and adapted by Ranjit Bolt is an absolute joy. This is a high-energy farce played with gusto from a highly talented cast who seem to be enjoying every minute of this comic masterpiece.

Director Kate Saxon sticks to the play's original setting of 18th Century Spain with an atmospheric design by Libby Watson. Her pacey production had all the passion and pulsating desires created by those hot Spanish evenings, complimented by an evocative musical score by Sarah Travis.

The lustful Count, rambunctiously played by Philip Bird, has become bored with his wife and the village girls and lusts after his servant Suzanne, a vivacious flirty performance from Ruth Everett, who is about to get married that evening to the Count's valet. As was the custom of the French nobility, the Count is determined to claim his right to sleep with the girl on her wedding night.

Jason Baughan perfectly captured the quick-witted and crafty bridegroom, Figaro, who is determined to thwart the Count's plans. He enlists the support of the Countess, the excellent stoic Rachel Atkins, who is best known for her role as Vicky Hodges in The Archers. She could change her emotions in an instant and persuades the Count to abolish this droit de seigneur. The lower orders were about to bite back as Figaro is hell-bent on defending his bride's honour.

Liam Bergin (Danny Mitchell in Eastenders) had wonderful comic timing as Cherubin, the naïve page who is in love with the Countess and, to complicate matters further, Franchette (Joanna Hickman) is also in love with Cherubin which leads to much confusion.

As in all good farces there are many absurd and ridiculous situations. The passing of notes, intercepted by the wrong person; mistaken identities; near discoveries from concealment in cupboards - all great fun.

The scene with Cherubin hiding behind a chair to escape capture by the Count is hilarious, as is his escape from the room by diving through a window, real inventive humour.

Julian Harries brought some Irish drollery as the gardener whose vegetables had been ruined by Cherubin's flight.

A plot is contrived to catch the Count out with Cherubin disguising himself as Suzanne but the Countess decides to play this part herself and so Suzanne is disguised as the Countess as preparations for the wedding take place.

The last act of The Marriage of Figaro is performed outside in the beautiful Watermill garden with Figaro interacting with the audience. The Count tries to seduce Suzanne, who of course is really the Countess, and the whole situation becomes an uproarious romp which is finally resolved with the Count "learning more about diplomacy in one day than you learn in a lifetime."

A thoroughly enjoyable evening that was well received by the enthusiastic audience.

Runs until 30th July

Reviewer: Robin Strapp