Play of the week: Candide, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

 

Directed with mordant verve by Lyndsey Turner, Mark Ravenhill's witty, astringent response to Voltaire's 1759 novella suggests that optimism as a form of denial may have modern equivalents in self-help and chemical "solutions" to discontent.

Teasingly self-referential, proceedings begin as Candide (Matthew Needham) is treated to a play-within-a-play version of his adventures. He storms off, furious at the rationalising of Ian Redford's Pangloss and determined to "change my story".

This ambition is echoed in a 21st-century about a nihilistic 18-year-old who murders her family, and the future-set coda is wonderfully double-edged.

0844 800 1110, to 26 October

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