Preview: Ring Round The Moon, Playhouse Theatre, London
A satirical farce to be reckoned with
Tuesday 19 February 2008
Mixing theatrical genres is an ambitious conceit. This is what the director Sean Mathias has embarked on in his production of Ring Round the Moon, Christopher Fry's adaptation of Jean Anouilh's comedy L'Invitation au château.
A comic farce set at a high-society ball in 1950s France, Ring Round the Moon is a comedy of manners and mistaken identity that features endearingly eccentric characters and a narrative that spins off in unexpected directions.
It stars JJ Feild, making his West End debut, who believes that the director's take on the play is not traditionally British. "Sean Mathias was always very adamant that we should try to get away from doing a Noël Coward- or Oscar Wilde-style farce, and it keep it more alive," he says. "While that's what people might be expecting, we felt it was very important that it shouldn't fit into that bracket."
Ring Round the Moon centres on identical twins Hugo and Frederic (both played by Feild), an heiress and a ballet dancer who is being used by Hugo, the more manipulative of the brothers, to contrive a plot to suit his own ends.
"Playing two characters was a great challenge, but ultimately great fun," he says. "I'm constantly running on and off stage, endlessly throughout the night. Strangely, though, I haven't quite worked out yet how to warm up, as it's obviously quite difficult to get in one character and then perform as another."
The director has also gone to great lengths to ensure that the play communicates its themes of the interplay between money, love and loneliness. Anouilh, an avowed Marxist, would have been pleased to know that his social commentary has endured.
"The great thing about it is that it's got all the humour, glamour and charm of a French farce, but Anouilh was also such an incredible philosopher, yet that doesn't diminish the comedy, or overwhelm it," Feild says. "The first time I read it I thought it was absolutely hilarious."
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