Lyric Hammersmith, London W6
Opened 30 April, 2002

**** Witty and insightful piece about social role reversal

Every time you think you have Marivaux's play sussed, it shows itself to be that little bit more complex than you expected.

Iphicrates and his servant Harlequin, Euphrosine and her maid Cleanthis find themselves shipwrecked on a desert island where a republic of slaves, in the person of the white-coated Trivelin, forces them to switch places in a kind of rehabilitation programme. Not only do the masters learn how casually tyrannical they have been, but the servants come to appreciate that there is more to life than vengefully behaving the same way themselves.

Neil Bartlett's production takes place on a sand-covered stage in the round: the Victorian proscenium theatre of the Lyric Hammersmith has been remade into a rough, democratic space to mirror the themes of the play. The women give the better, more complex performances: where Gregor Truter's Iphicrates is something of a cipher and Guy Dartnell's Harlequin an exaggerated Jack-the-lad, Amanda Harris's Euphrosine is rather touchingly at a loss when her old hauteur and flirtation fail her, and Anita Dobson as Cleanthis reminds us once again how truly fantastic an actress she can be, masterfully riding the dynamics of individual lines. It's less than 90 minutes long, but enough food for thought for a full evening.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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