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Love, Lies and Lust (Hornchurch)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Way back in the 1960s, there was a vogue for musicals based on Restoration comedy – Fielding's Rape Upon Rape turned into Lock Up Your Daughters and Vanburgh's The Relapse transformed into Virtue in Danger.

In the 1990s the Heather Brothers did the same thing for Wycherley's The Country Wife at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch; Love, Lies and Lust transferred to the West End and has now returned to Hornchurch in a new production by Matt Devitt with choreography by Liz Marsh and musical direction by Julian Littman.

A principal strength of the Queen's Theatre repertory company has always been its musical as well as its histrionic ability. From the moment Ali Watt as society doctor Quack introduces us to the first of the deadly sins to be displayed through to the finale, the ear as well as the eye is engaged. The score is tuneful throughout, even if none of the numbers are "stand-out" memorable.

Among the best ones are the trio for the card-playing women seeking extra-marital pleasure while preserving their reputations "Ladies of quality", and "I live for love". Rodney Ford's timbered set with its Thames view backdrop works well, though his costumes veer from the 1670s through to the 1740s.

Inhabiting them are Elliot Harper's seductive Horner, Kate Robson-Stuart's luscious Margery (a country fruit ripe for plucking) with Sufia Manya and Adrian Salmon as the secondary love interest of Alithea and Harcourt. There are neat studies of crotchety husbands from David Morley Hale as Pinchwife and Sam Pay as Sir Jasper, the latter easily bamboozled by Anna Skye's Lady Fidget.


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