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A Bold Stroke for a Husband

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The programme for this lively entertainment by Little Bear Theatre Company includes a summary of the story in large print. It is just as well. A Bold Stroke For a Husband by the now little known Hannah Cowley is one of those densely plotted late 18th century comedies where disguise, duplicity and dastardly deeds come so thick and fast that one does well to remember who is meant to be impersonating or deceiving whom at any given moment. Add to that the fact that a full-length play has been reduced to 50 minutes and a cast of eight and the chances of confusion are multiplied several times over.

Of the plot, suffice it to say that there is an abandoned wife (Amy Humphreys) who wants her faithless husband back, a Portuguese ‘temptress’ (Maya Sondhi) who has tricked the said faithless husband into signing over his estate, a father (Christopher Robert) desperate to marry off a termagant of a daughter (Ursula Early), a maid with a mind of her own (Karen Elliot) and two unsuitable suitors. One cannot pretend that this spirited performance does justice to the original – caricature is a mere sword-length away – but there is no doubt that it injects zest and vigour into a City lunch hour. Typical of the style is the running gag whereby each character spits in disgust each time the word ‘Portuguese’ is mentioned (the play is set in Madrid).

Things come to a comic crescendo when Dan Smith plays the two suitors simultaneously, arguing with himself, and finally wrestling himself to the floor, while the third character in the scene, Don Julio (Tom Radford) looks on bemused and ignored.

The production is given a splash of Spanish flavour by director Pip Minnithorpe and is a perfect accompaniment to a leisurely lunchtime baguette.

- Giles Cole


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