RSC Swan Theatre
CARNIVAL comes to the Swan in the form of Aphra Behn’s The Rover bringing a full-on assault for the senses.
A full Latin American band sets the scene with infectious rhythms, lilting melodies and sensual dancing – and it’s a joyous soundtrack that doesn’t let up throughout the night.
Amid the colour and noise, The Rover – one of the lesser-performed of the Restoration comedies – weaves its tale of love, lust, lunacy and final resolution. The plot is too heavily interwoven to warrant explanations here, suffice it to say there are enough twists, misunderstandings, deceptions, improvised plots and seductions to keep both audience and cast fully occupied.
And what a cast we have. Like most plays of its era, The Rover provides a rich spectrum of characters and this wonderful ensemble production never takes a backward step in mining everything those characters have to offer.
In something so brilliantly strong in depth it should be wrong to pick out individual performances. But it would be wrong not to record what a simply triumphant tour-de-force Joseph Millson achieves in the title role. For such a self-obsessed character to end up carrying all the sympathies of the watchers takes superb timing, a great reading of the script and sheer hard work. It’s a wonder to watch.
Leander Deeny’s over-the-edge Blunt and Jamie Wilkes’ pride-wounded Don Antonio also deserve mention among the men.
It is perhaps thanks to its writer being herself a pioneer of women’s writing that the female half of the cast list is so strong. These are genuinely funny and fully rounded parts and the three sisters, together with the inhabitants of the late-night carnival town all shine.
Again, space won’t allow the mentions all deserve, but Faye Castelow’s sharply wise and brilliantly seductive Hellena must not go unpraised.
Loveday Ingram directs the production at an unrelentingly vigorous pace and the design of Lez Brotherston makes the whole thing abundantly watchable.
There are terrific comic stage fights to enjoy, the obligatory RSC simulated groping and dance routines ablaze with colour and fun.
With an overall running time of three hours, this is no mere tapas of an offering. But there are no scenes, no speeches, no dances which do not more than merit their place. This production is a joy from start to finish and will get better as it goes along. A pleasure not to be missed.
The Rover runs until February 11. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.