Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
Once again, The Orange Tree has made a delightful "discovery". In this case, an 18th. Century comedy by a lady of many parts who made friends and enemies (including Walpole and Pope) in high places.
Simplicity is a reworking of Marivaux' A Game of Love and Chance. The element of gambling in that "game", is demonstrated in Sam Dowson's set with playing cards and chess-board on the floor. She also sets the time with a delightful set of costumes.
The plot is simplicity itself, and reminiscent of reality TV almost three hundred years later. Two lovers disguise themselves as their servants and vice versa. This leaves ample opportunity for fun as all four have to play unfamiliar parts and inevitably fall in love with their counterparts. They are happily cheered along by Terrence Hardiman, very good as the well-named Sir John Hearty.
Octavia Walters is excellent as Bellinda, Sir John's wilful young daughter who becomes her maid. She falls for her suitor's man (Gyuri Sárossy) while inevitably, the two disguised servants become lovers, both seeing the chance of advancement in wealth and class.
Miss Walters strength is in playing in the round and drawing in the audience with witty asides and great timing. She is well supported by the rest of the cast, all well directed by Auriol Smith. The director also provides some amusing silent movie-style interludes accompanied by harpsichord music, in this very welcome revival.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher