Monday, February 1, 2021

LOVE IN A WOOD (Jermyn Street Theatre)****


By Louise


Available until: February 14th

Love in a Wood; or St James’s Park is the first play by William Wycherley. He says he wrote it when he was nineteen, but some people disagree as the play refers to things which didn’t exist when he was nineteen. I think maybe he wrote his first draft when he was nineteen and then edited it later and included some of the latest modern things to make the play seem more current? I might be wrong, but I think it’s possible. (It’s not the same as the 1915 film called Love in a Wood, which is based on As You Like It.)

The start of the play is a bit confusing. It looks like they started off with everyone on mute (though they could probably still hear each other) and nobody realised for a while. But they started the play again and it starts at about fifteen minutes into the youtube video. They do the opening credits again so you should be able to find it.

The play was first performed in 1671. I was really surprised to hear that. I love Shakespeare, but I do have to work very hard to understand his language sometimes, but Love in a Wood has a very modern feel and the actors make the language very easy to understand.

The plot is a bit more complicated than the language so you might have to work quite hard at that, but it really is worth it. The play is very funny and clever (it reminded me of some of Oscar Wilde’s plays and also The Woman Hater by Frances Burney, which was recently performed by the Red Bull Theatre) and it presents lots of different farcical situations.

There are a lot of characters and I can understand why Nasrullah Mambrol said in an analysis which I read that the play has too many characters and storylines. It is very confusing sometimes. But the characters are all brilliant and the situations are really funny, it is horrible to think of even one character being cut out.

The production was presented by Jermyn Street Theatre, but it’s a Zoom production directed by Hermione Gulliford. If anyone reading this is a Holby City fan, you should definitely check out the play. Ms Gulliford (who played Dr Roxanna MacMillan in Holby) also appears in the play alongside her former Holby co-stars James Anderson (who played Dr Ollie Valentine), Ellie Fanyinka (who played Dr Morven Digby, née Shreve) and Debbie Chazen (who played Dr Fleur Fanshawe). If anyone thinks soapstars can’t act, they don’t need to worry because all the acting is excellent.

The plot is really complicated. Mr Ranger is betrothed to Lydia, but he really likes Christina. Christina is in a relationship with Mr Valentine and she’s faithful to him, but he knows Mr Ranger has been hanging around so he thinks Christina is cheating on him. Lady Flippant likes Mr Dapperwit, but she’s pretending to like Sir Simon Addleplot, who wants to marry Mistress Martha because she has a very rich dad. There’s also Mrs Joyner, whose job it is to find Lady Flippant a husband, though Lady Flippant seems to have no trouble finding candidates on her own. Also, Alderman Gripe wants to marry a young lady called Miss Lucy. Her mother approves, but Miss Lucy wants to marry Mr Dapperwit. Until she starts to doubt his intentions.

The names sound quite silly, but for some reason, they work really well and they suit the tone of the play.

Hermione Gulliford directs the play really well and I love the way the Zoom screens are used. Not all the actors in a scene are visible all the time, but anyone who is visible is usually doing something really important so you don’t miss people’s reactions if you’re busy looking at other characters.

All the actors do really well and make their characters distinctive, but Paul Chahidi is outstanding as Mr Dapperwit. He is hilarious and he reacts to everything brilliantly. Debbie Chazen is also really good as Mrs Joyner. She is a really brilliant character and Ms Chazen’s performance and charisma ensured I was invested in the play right from the first scene.

Jo Stone-Fewings and James Anderson are lovely as the slightly silly Mr Ranger who gets himself into difficulties and his sweet friend Mr Vincent who tries to sort things out. Linda Bassett is very funny as Lady Flippant, who always seems to be indignant about something and has an attitude to husbands which I think Oscar Wilde might have approved of. Ellie Fanyinka is very good as the outspoken Mistress Martha and I love the way she reacts to some of the things the other characters say. Nicholas Le Provost and Ian Gelder have some really brilliant moments as Sir Simon Addleplot and Alderman Gripe. Hermione Gulliford is brilliant as the cold and snappy Mrs Crossbite (she is very well named!).

There are also some more serious performances. Nancy Carroll ensures we have no reason to doubt her elegant Christina, even if Mr Valentine is being silly. Danny Sapani is an intense Mr Valentine, and Lorna Brown gives an emotionally involving performance as Lydia. Shaofan Wilson stands up for herself as Miss Lucy but is still quite vulnerable. May Walker has a very small role and doesn’t have a story of her own, but she makes Isabel (Christina’s maid) into someone you really care about and I am very excited about what she could do with a big role. All the cast are so good and they all seem really comfortable with each other (they’re all friends) so they can all really push the boundaries with their characters and not hold back.

This play is so much fun with some great lines and great characters and I recommend it.

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