Hunter Production's version of 'The Rover' opens surprisingly sedately, given the action that follows. Florinda (Abby Forknall) is in whispered conversation with her kinswoman Valeria (Bethany Simpson), presumably about Belville, Florinda's beloved. They're interrupted by Florinda's brother Don Pedro (David Furlong), who, like her father is anxious to marry her well, i.e., profitably for themselves. For this is not a Spain of the imagination so much as Aphra Behn's own country, where love struggles to conquer money and men and women struggle for each other's hearts (and other
parts as well).
Largely forgotten except by theatre historians such as
Allardyce Nicol till a new generation led by Fidelis Morgan championed them,
women playwrights of the late seventeenth century, of whom Behn remains the
most known, had a sharp and shrewd eye for the marriage market of their day.
Their subtle yet steely feminist take on the world may well have ensured their
long obscurity and the deprecation their work has suffered from 'respectable'
Florinda and Valeria don disguise and head out into the
carnival going on in their city, oblivious to the English 'gentlemen' who have
also been drawn to it. Belville (James Ronan), unsurprisingly, is of their
number, along with Willmore (Tom Hunter), 'The Rover' of the title, Fredrick
(Duncan Barret) and Blunt (Robert Shilton). Disguise leads predictably to
confusion, and in the case of Blunt, to a deeply deserved downfall which in
turn provokes an attempt at brutal revenge leading to revelation and
'The Rover' is perhaps one of Aphra Behn's most tightly
constructed comedies, and although the cast are largely recent graduates, they
acquit themselves extremely well.
The smaller stage of C3, designed as a Masonic chapel,
limits the scope available for the romps, brawls, alarums and excursions called
for in the script, but a well-directed cast make the very best they can of the
restrictions, and play consistently throughout.
Theirs is very genuinely ensemble playing, and it would
therefore be invidious to single out individual performances; they are
nevertheless actors one hopes to see again in Edinburgh or elsewhere.
The previous rating regime of this website measured the
number of drams required to get through the show being reviewed (no drams meant
a superb show, five one that failed by any standard). 'The Rover' would in this
reviewer's estimate have been a two dram show - i.e., between three and four
stars in common Fringe rating. He can only hope Hunter Productions do not feel
three stars diminishes their obvious hard work and enthusiasm.
Time: 6.15 pm, 2-27 August
Copyright: Bill Dunlop. Published on EdinburghGuide.com, 2007