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

 

Paul Taylor
Friday 13 September 2013 00:45 BST
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Play-within-a-play: Candide is Mark Ravenhill's witty, astringent response to Voltaire's 1759 novella
Play-within-a-play: Candide is Mark Ravenhill's witty, astringent response to Voltaire's 1759 novella (Manuel Harlan)

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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