London Assurance, at the National Theatre, Olivier Theatre

remember to pack my bonnet, or else...

It’s not often that you go to the theatre and laugh so loudly. The National’s Theatre’s Olivier theatre, however, was full of laughter because of Nicholas Hytner’s London Assurance. The play tells the story of Sir Harcourt Courtly, who lives in Belgravia, and is soon going to marry a girl half his age. We watch as the city dandy is transported to the Gloucestershire countryside, what follows are a series of mistaken identities, flamboyant dancing, and an electronic rat.

Purists may dislike that Dion Boucicault’s play has been edited, but like other Irish writers, such as Oscar Wilde, who portray the English upper-classes as image conscious and dim, the core is not lost. Hytner’s version and the cast’s own improvisations entertain the audience, in particular Simon Russell Beale as Sir Harcourt and Fiona Shaw as Lady Gay Spanker who work excellently off of each other and the audience’s response.

Some of the imminent questions are though, why is the National Theatre putting on a production of the play? And who is it putting it on for? It may delight the critics and the white middle-class viewers who have read or seen versions before, but because there is little making the production relevant, for example its homosexual subtext and class divisions could be further explored, it fails to take the opportunity to speak to a wider audience. Instead it remains a stylish costume bash, and you certainly would leave laughing.

Runs till 2 June.

To see or not to see: * * * *


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