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A Lady of Little Sense - Arcola Theatre (Review)

A Lady of Little Sense

Review by Shanna Schreuder

AS FIERY and pleasurable as Arcola Theatre’s other Spanish Golden Age comedy, Don Gil of the Green Breeches, this production of Lope de Vega’s classic boasts the same strong cast with many standout performances from the lead characters.

Presenting similar themes such as the importance of love, the value of money and the desirability of women, A Lady of Little Sense has an almost identical plot to Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Like the Bard’s play, it follows two sisters, one surrounded by a string of suitors while the other is deemed unmarriageable, which proves to be a constant headache to their father.

Nise, the eldest sister, is blessed with beauty and brains, while her younger sister Finea, a beauty too, lacks all intelligence making her whole-heartedly undesirable to the opposite sex. Fortunately, she has a dowry of 40,000 ducats, which works to move Laurencio’s affection from Nise to Finea as he “trades intelligence for gold”.

However, it might not prove to be enough of a reward for Liseo. The ultimate question for the suitors is whether they’ll be happier with a clever wife or a fool with a pot of gold.

Translated anew by award-winning translator for the stage, David Johnston, this version of A Lady of Little Sense reminds us how women’s sole purpose in 17th Century Spain was to obtain a husband.

Laurence Boswell’s grand direction sees the cast of 10 swiftly move about the stage, entering and exiting from all four corners of the central stage.

Frances McNamee as Finea has the wide-eyed charm of an innocent child that’s impossible to resist, while Katie Lightfoot’s Nise is stern, yet reveals that she too is ruled by her emotions and not her head.

Both Nick Barber as Laurencio and Simon Scardifield as Liseo succeed in creating fickle men who deserve neither of the sisters.

A Lady of Little Sense provides yet another strong argument for theatre-goers to head off the beaten West End track and into the Fringe to find entertainment gold.

A Lady of Little Sense
From January 9 – March 15, 2014
Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, E8 3DL
Tel: 020 75031646