Restorative Comedy

Busy week at the theatre. American Buffalo (David Mamet) and The Beaux’ Stratagem (George Farquhar). Both exceedingly enjoyable.

David Mamet’s offering with John Goodman AND Damian Lewis is predictably packed with standing room tickets only and returns, (though oddly on the night we were there our two neighbours up and left BEFORE the curtain came up for the first time). More people failed to return after the interval – was this because of the language? David Mamet is notably free with his four-letter expletives. This is an uproariously funny three-hander, with John Goodman in particularly great form. Set in a re-sale shop, two hoodlums plan a heist to recover a coin (the eponymous nickel).

[Buffalo nickels (also called Indian Head nickels) were minted from 1913 to 1938 The coin values and prices for Indian Head nickels are based upon the condition of the coin.  If the coin shows evidence of wear on it due to being used in commerce, it considered “circulated.” If it was never used, then it is classified as “uncirculated.”   Some coins are very valuable even in well worn condition.]

Tom Sturridge plays the fall guy, set to keep a look out for the man who came to the shop and bought a nickel for $90. However they choose to use another guy on the night, side-lining Tom’s character, but this guy never shows up…

If you are struggling to remember who these actors are think Ocean’s Eleven and Homeland respectively.

However, you will be lucky to get tickets. The National Theatre production of The Beaux’ Stratagem might be more productive, there were certainly seats the night I went.

The Beaux’ Stratagem is a crackingly good play, performed rambunctiously by Geoffrey Streatfield and Samuel Barnett (think Posner in The History Boys by Alan Bennett) as the two cash strapped youths after a fortune – Archer and Aimwell. The ladies are also delightful, three of them are ladies of quality, Lady Bountiful, Dorinda and Mrs Sullen, (Jane Booker, Susannah Fielding and Pippa Bennett-Warner) there is a Mr Sullen and landlord called Boniface and Cherry, the landlord’s sparkling daughter (Amy Morgan).

It is not to disparage the ladies in any way, but Archer (Geoffrey Streatfield) in particular totally owned the stage: his acting, singing and dancing was riveting, a mesmerising performance and he gave every appearance of absolutely loving every minute.

The story is simple to follow, underlined by the names. Archer and Aimwell take it in turns to act Master and Servant in each town they visit, hoping to gull a few sovereigns out of each encounter. When we meet them, it is the turn of Aimwell to be the gentleman and Archer the manservant. The principle aim being to secure some funds without committing to marriage, a trick that Archer is rather better at that Aimwell, who has a tendency to really “fall in love” with awkward consequences…

There is a considerable opportunity for music and dance in every Restoration play, after years under a Protestant yoke, the stage was ready for a bit of gaiety, and this play delivers.

Live music, both from the box and on the stage greatly enhanced the mood, and the songs and dances were both lively and captivating (for both players and audience). This is worth trying to get to see.

No images this week I am afraid because I gave one guest my programme to American Buffalo and another both the programme and my playscript for The Beaux’ Stratagem.

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