A/V Room









Chichester unearths its third hit of the 2005 season in Scapino

Review by David Munro

I AM NOT familiar with Moliere’s original play, so I do not know how close to it Jeremy Sam’s adaptation, Scapino, sticks.

I don’t really feel that matters very much because the outcome is a very amusing play with an incredibly funny performance by Richard McCabe in the name part.

The plot is the usual farcical mix up between parents and children over the children’s marriages. - the fathers wanting their sons to marry the other father’s daughter and the sons resisting and, with the help of Scapino, conning the fathers into disgorging large sums of money to further their own desires.

In the end, everyone is happy except for Scapino on whom they all turn their backs.

All this is set in a semi-derelict café, a brilliantly atmospheric setting by Helmut Sturmer, apparently in the middle of a war which gives a surreal air to the proceedings that, in a strange way, enhances them.

McCabe’s Scapino dominates the stage when he is on, either playing a strange piano which doubles as his bed and the repository of a multitude of files he produces to confuse and convince one of the fathers, or concocting some cock and bull story to further his designs.

He is a master of the throwaway line and his delivery of the most far-fetched stories in a matter of fact manner is almost unbearably funny.

This is a comic performance par excellence and proves McCabe to be a farceur of consummate skill and artistry whom, I would venture to say, is unparalleled on the contemporary stage.

His overwhelming performance clearly casts its shadow on the other artists appearing with him even though their performances were excellent in their own right.

I particularly enjoyed Steven Beard as Geronte, one of the fathers who, faced with the fact that one of his sons had been kidnapped by pirates ,continually wailed, 'Why did he have to go to sea', as a panacea for his having to fork out the ransom.

His performance was the perfect foil for McCabe, as was Pip Donaghy’s Argante, the other father, whose humiliation at Scapino’s hands was uproarious.

Stephen Ventura and Kieran Hill, as the two sons, extracted the maximum humour from what were, in effect, rather unrewarding parts, as were those of Katherine Tozer and Alexia Healy as the two girls, the object of their affections.

These latter only appeared toward the end of the second act, as did Darlene Johnson’s Nerina, the nurse whose recollections sorted out the plot and brought it to a close; nonetheless, in the short time available to them they made every moment tell.

I suppose a lot of the credit for the pleasure of the production must be laid at the door of the Rumanian director, Silviu Pucarete.

Farce is one of the most difficult things to direct and get right, depending as it does on speed and split second timing by the actors. To get it as right as he has done in an unfamiliar language is a feat worthy of congratulation, and I raise my hat to him.

I have seen some very critical reviews of this production which made me wonder what I had let myself in for.

To be as agreeably surprised as I was with a wonderful production and very memorable performances is a treat indeed.

All right, it is not King Lear but Scapino, in it’s own way, is just as good and memorable a production as the Chichester Lear – and it has more laughs!

I am looking forward to The Government Inspector, in which a lot of the Scapino cast will appear, but not, alas, Richard McCabe.

In my book, this year's Chichester Season has three resounding hits so far – can they field a fourth? Watch this space.

Scapino or The Trickster, adapted by Jeremy Sams from Les Fourberies de Scapin by Moliere.
Directed by Silviu Purcarete.
Designer and Lighting Designer – Helmut Sturmer.
Sound - John A. Leonard.
Composer – Vasile Sirili.
CAST: Richard McCabe; Pip Donaghy; Steven Beard; Stephen Ventura; Kieran Hill; Alexia Healy; Katherine Tozer; Graham Turner; Darlene Johnson; Christian Bradley.

In Repertory until September 9, 2005.
Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 6AP.
Box Office: 01243 781312

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