Review: The Belle’s Stratagem - ‘Restoration’ farce is outrageous fun

The Belle's Stratagem - Lyceum
The Belle's Stratagem - Lyceum
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THE ladies are rebelling in Tony Cownie’s production of Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem, a glorious comic-strip restoration-style farce bearing a message from the past for society today.

* * * *

ROYAL LYCEUM, Grindlay Street

Adapted by Cownie, the 18th century piece is a ‘riposte’ to George Farquhar’s The Beaux Stratagem, in which two young gentlemen set out to entrap young heiresses and take their money.

In Cownie’s take on the tale, performed by a cast of well-kent Lyceum faces, the action takes place in Georgian Edinburgh’s elegant New Town, where the newly opened Assembly Rooms are the place to be seen.

A tale of love, deception and intrigue, we find Letitia Hardy, daughter of the Lord Provost out of favour with her beau, Doricourt, upon his return from Europe.

Determined not to marry without love, she formulates a plan to capture his attention; she will behave so badly that he calls off the wedding and then disguise herself and seduce him all over again.

As she does, Doricourt’s friend Sir George and his new wife Lady Frances are just finding the boundaries of their marriage as the misogynistic Courtall vows to seduce Lady Frances... As plans collide, hilarity rules.

Played out on Neil Murray’s inspired set, this is a production of heightened performances, funny voices, silly walks and, in most cases, innate comic timing - never more evident than when John Ramage is on stage.

As the fishwife-like busy-body reporter Flutter he is a show-stealer.

As Lord Provost Hardy, Steven McNicoll blusters and bellows to great effect, sharing asides with the audience with natural ease as he morphs from character to character as required.

He’s more than matched for laughs by Pauline Knowles and Nicola Roy as Mrs Racket and Mrs Ogle - a feisty laugh out loud double act.

Roy also plays lady of the night Kitty to great effect.

As Letitia, Angela Hardie is all manic energy, while Grant O’Rourke’s Sir George Touchwood is another over the top creation that proves popular with the audience.

John Kielty and Richard Conlon are in fine form while Angus Miller and Helen Mackay underplay Lady Frances and Doricourt.

Cownie’s script and direction ensure a constant barrage of comic moments while his often panto-esque script keeps the laughs coming as the ladies prove just which is the superior sex.

Run ends Saturday 10 March