Edinburgh festival `99 Reviews: Theatre

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The Independent Culture
The Whisperers

Traverse Theatre, Venue 15 (0131-228 1404), times vary, to 4 September

has undergone a labyrinthine journey in order to make it to Edinburgh. It started off as a disappointment in the career of Frances Sheridan, an 18th century clergyman's daughter, who had it rejected by producers a year before her death. The play refused to die, however, and parts of it re-emerged when her son, Richard Sheridan, plundered the script and used several lines to fuel his own hit, The Rivals. And that would have been that, if actress and playwright Elizabeth Kuti had not stumbled on the play during research, and decided to resurrect it more honestly. The work was incomplete, so Kuti took the plot of sexual intrigue, money- grabbing, and mistaken identity, and wove the loose strands into her own tidy ending. The result is a kind of cross between Dangerous Liaisons and Way of the World. Eyebrows arch conspiratorially and morals dance loosely in a production where the main game for the audience is judging whether Kuti has pulled the pastiche off. Her second half is certainly very entertaining - although sometimes it feels as if she sacrifices the authenticity for the sake of a laugh. Audiences will enjoy it, but academics will probably be more cautious.