THEATRE / Sex and sensibility: The Artifice - Orange Tree, Richmond
Wednesday 24 February 1993
So it is good to report that, in Sam Walter's likeable production, The Artifice comes across as a sparky and spirited comedy, its tone worldly but unsoured, such as you might expect from the pen of a woman who managed to attend lectures at Cambridge disguised as a boy, became a prolific dramatist and had plays censured for indecent language, banned for being too Whiggish or (in the case of attacks on Catholics, Tories, and electioneering corruption) suppressed as politically dangerous.
Also reviled at the time, The Artifice is a tangle of intrigues which point the moral that impudence tends to pay off in a money-obsessed world where 'he is only honest, who is not discovered'. For example, realising that it is her obsessively jealous husband who has just entered her darkened chamber and not her lover, whom she was clearly expecting from her vocal response, Caroline Gruber's distraught sexpot Mrs Watchit pretends to be talking in her sleep, her ambiguous ravings a running commentary on a virtuous dream of beating off the advances of a randy chiropodist. She's a Roman Catholic, and it is typical of the skewed moral priorities on view here that the husband (played by David Timson as a Bunterish, tweedy coronary candidate) allows her regular access to a 'confessor' and undergoes paroxysms of sexual suspicion as a result, rather than suffer the worst pangs of paying the financial forfeit for denying her her 'ghostly aids'.
Plots involving discarded Dutch mistresses adroitly putting the 'low' in Low Countries, fathers sickly bestowing daughters on fortunes rather than on decent men etc. etc. are played out on a snakes and ladders board, the serpents sporting human heads. Paper doors for bumptious cads to burst through heroically and a slightly dotty period / modern dress mix are among the production features that give the old comic formulae an added friskiness.
It is the silliest parts that appealed most. A particular delight are the scenes involving Auriol Smith's affected, vain Widow Heedless, who is beset by bumpkin servants who cannot get the hang of calling her madam (however many times she gestures with her fan) and who will insist on bringing her shoes in on a plate.
See Listings opposite
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after that Wembley Stadium rant
Blink-182 split: Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful' say Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus
Emma Watson to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Sam Smith is now paying Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne royalties for 'Stay With Me'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia