THEATRE / Overdoing the wise guise: Wiseguy Scapino - Theatre Clwyd, Mold

Surely one principle of the generous art of comic playing must stipulate being mean to the audience. Every fine moment must be cut off, each proven laugh never repeated and a modicum of disappointment must form a crucial part of our pleasure.

There is much excellent playing in Kathryn Hunter's new production of Moliere's little known commedia piece Les Fourberies de Scapin, translated by Jacek Laskowski as Wiseguy Scapino. Rae Smith, the designer, has festooned the Emlyn Williams Theatre, always a flexible and stimulating space, with Neapolitan washing, starched rigid into a riot of grotesque attitudes. The cacophonous dockland city is updated to somewhere around the 1960s, and thus into the heyday both of youthful fecklessness and mafioso stereotype. From this opening shake, the show goes off like a bottle of pop.

Few things are sharper than the co-director Marcello Magni's first entrance as the quicksilver servant Scapino. Chased by a thug with a gun, in a trice he has donned a wig, conjured up a napkin to tuck into his belt and is leaning against a cafe counter that has sprung obediently from the floor just in time to offer his pursuer a cappuccino. He is clearly a man to have on your side. Octavio is fortunate that Scapino is his father's servant, since he has just entered into a secret marriage, only to discover that paternal wrath is about to come home sooner than he'd bargained for.

Strengthening the resolve of Toby Jones's putty-faced and lily-livered Octavio is Scapino's next task. Unfortunately, the Stanislavskian conviction with which he role-plays the fearsome patriarch Argante - which culminates in his bearing down on the youth with his sidekick, Sylvestro (Toby Sedgwick) improvising stilts by moving stools under his feet - leaves Octavio gibbering and utterly unable to be reassured that the threat to 'cut his dick off' was only a turn of phrase.

When Argante appears in person he has something to live up to, but, remarkably, Kathryn Hunter herself - substituting in the role at short notice - is instantly compelling. She is a godfather who could fit in Brando's vest pocket, though her own immaculate cream waistcoat is swollen so corpulently that the walrus moustache is almost permanently facing heavenwards and her voice is like the stirring of an anchor chain. Men are shot for even setting foot on Argante's red carpet, and the ingenious acrobatics with which Sylvestro, pigeon-toed in his winkle-pickers, avoids this fate is an incidental delight.

The plot has nothing much to do with these riches, other than to require Scapino, 'a diesel of intrigue' as the feisty translation calls him, to outwit and fleece Argante, and the other tyrannical father Geronte (Patrice Naiambana), on behalf of both their sons and their paramours, some of whom, naturally, turn out to be long-lost. There isn't really enough to sustain the piece far beyond its dazzling opening half-hour, and though the show recovers for a spirited finale, it sags badly through the middle.

It is there that some economy in the comic playing would have been welcome. Several of the actors, including Marcello Magni himself, are Theatre de Complicite alumni, and the verve and extravagance with which they tackle this kind of commedia dell'arte work is beyond question. But we are given too much: too many gags and reactions over-extended, a reluctance to cut reiterative scenes if the actors can get a spot out of them. This is a lively, witty and enjoyable production - it's just that we could have done with less of a good thing.

Continues until 29 May (Box-office: 0352 755114).

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?