The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich
Swan Theatre, Stratford
SURPRISES might not always be welcome, but the RSC certainly deliver a welcome one in The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich.
Mary Pix’s little-known comedy of manners, first performed in 1700, is given a fizzingly modern facelift by director Jo Davies.
The plot may be convoluted, and the production could benefit from tightening by 20 minutes, but ultimately it’s a delight.
Bankers widow Mrs Rich may be loaded but it’s a little class that she craves. She is determined to climb her way up the social ladder by whatever means necessary.
Sophie Stanton is in her element as the lady in search of her lord. Her Mrs Rich – a sort of joyous Restoration marriage of
Alison Steadman’s Mrs Bennet and Hyacinth Bucket – is indefatigable in her mission to land her man. With a nod and wink here, and a comically screwed-up face there, Stanton walks a wonderful tightrope. Her lady always appears in control of her destiny, but there’s a sense she’s equally aware all could go pear shaped at any minute.
She is ably supported by a cast of youth and experience – from Laura Elsworthy’s no-nonsense Yorkshire maid Betty, and Will Brown’s charming manservant Jack, to Michael Simkins’s straight-talking brother-in-law Mr Rich, and Jessica Turner’s truly classy Mrs Clerimont. Not a foot is put wrong, or paw in the case of the two dogs.
Grant Olding’s newly penned songs – mostly delivered by Mr Rich; as Stanton also proves she has a fine voice – add another dimension to this wonderful production, as do the all-female saxophone quartet.
The set with its graffiti-sprayed backdrops is functional, allowing the audience to know exactly where the action is taking place,
but it is the simply sumptuous costumes which grab the eye. As an advert for the RSC’s current Stitch in Time campaign, which is looking to fund a major redevelopment of the company’s currently cramped Stratford costume-making department opposite the RST, the company could not choose a better production.
The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich runs until until June 14. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.