The Beaux' Stratagem, National Theatre, review: A good humoured revival

Godwin's production could, at the moment, do with quite a bit more oomph

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The Independent Culture

George Farquhar's 1707 play is both a late Restoration romp and a proto-feminist piece that scrutinises marital misery from the enslaved wife's point of view, extraordinarily ahead of its time in advocating “no fault” divorce as the solution.

In Simon Godwin's good-humoured, light-of-touch revival in the Travelex £15 season, Mrs Sullen – fourteen months shackled to a sottish, incommunicative spouse, who's interested only in her fortune – is played by the excellent Susannah Fielding. 

She radiates the combative sparkiness undimmed by the embittering frustration of this character's lot.  “Since a woman must wear chains, I would have the pleasure of hearing 'em rattle a little,” she declares drily.

She gets her chance when two impecunious beaux who've blown their inheritances in London (Geoffrey Streatfeild and Samuel Barnett in a very attractive calculating-but-not-heartless double act) fetch up in Lichfield, posing as master and servant, out to bag a female of means. 

Godwin's production could, at the moment, do with quite a bit more oomph but it moves with a slick fluency on Lizzie Clachan's ingenious set of sliding panels and triple staircase and it is blessed with a cast who do quirky justice to the giddily batty crush of characters, with Pearce Quigley deadpanning comic bliss as the north country butler who can't keep secrets.

To September 20; 020 7452 3000; Sept 3 NT Live broadcast