Writer: Pierre Corneille
Adapted by Tony Kushner
Director: Sebastian Harcombe
Reviewer: Elizabeth Vile
The Public Reviews Rating:
Late at night a man turns up in a secluded and dark place looking for the powerful illusionist who he hopes could find his missing son. Through a series of illusions conjured by this mysterious and cold lady the man believes that he is piecing together the life of his son. Tony Kushner’s adaptation of Pierre Coneille’s L’Illusion Comique is a witty and complex study into the subject of love and its importance to humanity. By the end of this developed and slick production the audience doesn’t really know if what they watched actually happened or not but strangely that doesn’t seem to matter.
Set in France in the 1600’s this period piece was simply created through costume, key pieces of furniture and Kushner’s rich and descriptive language. The symbolic language and his choice to give his characters almost lecture length speech at times was a challenge for the actors to keep the audience engaged but also gave us a treat with the detail and analysis within the piece. Alcantre’s final speech was the best and most thought provoking example of this.
James Clyde’s character Pridament is the catalyst for the story and it is through him that we see the events in the play. He captured the harshness of his character very well and although the audience did not like the selfish and proud man they couldn’t help hoping that he would see the error of his ways and find peace before death. Alcandre, performed beautifully by Melanie Jessop was an enigma. She could be harsh, angry, sensitive and mysterious in a minute and her powerful stage presence really held the piece together. A special mention needs to go to Daniel Easton as his multi role playing was confidently and effectively created. Although some members of the audience were not completely sure why his character had to become part of the illusions we were glad that he did because his contrasting characters really lifted the scenes he was in.
Smaller parts but no less important ones were confidently performed by Charlie Archer as the worshipper of love, Pridement’s son, Daisy Hughes as his naive and innocent love interest, Shanaya Rafaat as the long suffering maid and Adam Jackson-Smith who was sent mad by love and lies.
Overall this was a confidently performed and well developed production. The story was engaging and made the audience really think and analyse love in all its different guises. They mystery and confusion that surrounded the characters was very effective and the ending although inconclusive was poignant and funny and left the audience wanting more.