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
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Ed Miliband deemed less influential than One Direction's Louis Tomlinson by official Doncaster power list
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'