UNITED PLAYERS, Jericho Arts Centre, June 2nd - 25th 2017

My Two Pence

My Two Cents

By Liz Gloucester

Reviewers from this site have been privileged to have seen four out of the five offerings United Players had this season. Unfortunately they end on a bit of a flop with A Game of Love and Chance; as Sylvia exclaims in one scene, ‘When will this comedy end?’ I wanted to ask ‘When will the comedy begin?’ 

Director Brian Parkinson muses on the difficulties of staging a work of this nature in his notes, a play whose translation into English leads to more of a loss in wit than a gain. I am inclined to agree with him. Whilst there were elements of the play that suffered due to lack of stagecraft or acting choices I found the script to be the worst offender. The play seems to be confused about what it is- trapped between being a Commedia Dell’Arte romp and a Restoration Comedy of Manners which results in it’s characters wandering about the stage not really knowing whose ranks to fall into. 

The servant roles of Lisette and Arlequino are firmly based in the former; Rebecca Husain and Matt Loop both give spirited performances, brimming full of energy and physical humour. A fellow audience member commented that on closing his eyes Loop’s voice was the double of  Yakko Warner from the Animaniacs, which given his legendary comedic position for any 90s kid is a pretty good compliment! It was a shame that the pair didn’t fully embrace the opportunity the plot presents; the classic Prince and Pauper swap, to make more outrageous and interesting choices in the affectation of their masters. While engaging, the characters were a little one dimensional. 

Floundering behind their vassels are Elizabeth Willow and Callum Gunn who are most definitely stuck in the latter convention and are therefore left hideously upstaged by their melodramatic sidekicks. This was disappointing especially as Willow in particular seemed to have a good command of the stage and the text but the paler shade of acting style just left rather a dull taste. While it is refreshing to see an 18th century ingénue with brains it is odd that these characters are presented as being so level-headed and reasonable. Within the genre of Commedia Dell’Arte the Innamorati are typically pictured storming around in a teenage temper tantrum, being very conceited and generally knowing very little about the world. They are so useless that the engagement and meddling of the servants in their love affairs is necessary. They swoon and stomp their feet and are so completely over-the-top-ridiculous that they are in no fear of being outshone by their frolicking Zanni. It was a pity that the text stifled the lovers’ range but possibly there could have been directorial choices made to improve this and allow them to become a bit silly. 

A different type of silliness I will reflect on is the choice to have the production set in the 1920s. While the set and costumes looked spectacular and the text is suitable for such an adaptation, there weren’t any flourishes to the fact or recognition that the action was in fact taking place in that decade apart from a newspaper heralding Valentino’s death. This lack of creative continuity led me to believe that maybe they just didn’t have appropriate 18th century costumes. Unfortunately this seemed to be the flavour of the whole show- a play with no consistency. 

Thank goodness artistic director Andrée Karas has selected some fantastic shows for next year. 

By Marie Duncan

I went to see A Game of Love and Chance at the Jericho Arts Centre on Thursday, June 8th. A French comedy of manners by Pierre de Marivaux, this is a potentially hilarious commentary on class and wealth. Sylvia and her servant Lisette switch places so that Sylvia can study her fiance’s true manner on their first meeting. However, her fiance Dorante and his servant Arelquino have pulled the same stunt. The couples in their new stations meet and fall in love, each asking, “would you love me if I were richer/poorer.” By this light, Dorante is the only honourable character in the play as he is willing to marry below his station. Our main character, Sylvia, shows little change in her mind or opinions through the play, and seems to get everything she wants and manages to be quite nasty to Dorante. She gets away with it because she is wealthy.

Comedy of manners were originally written so that the French upper class could make fun of themselves. The play and actors, even the characters to a certain extent, must know that they are ridiculous. It needed big and silly choices throughout. However, director Brian Parkinson did not lead his whole cast to exist in the same play. This is why the servants’ performances worked, and why no one elses did.

Rebecca Husain as Lisette was delightfully exaggerated in her role. Her lover Arelquino, played by Matt Loop, just about kept up with her. Elizabeth Willow as Sylvia and Callum Gunn as Dorante attempted a more realistic approach. This choice was not supported by the script as neither character had much of an arc from start to finish.

The lighting design by Darryl Strohan was simple and lovely, focussing on the few flower vases as the lights faded for each transition.

A Game of Love and Chance is playing at Jericho Arts Centre until June 25th.