The Marriage of Figaro was written by Pierre Beaumarchais in 1778 as part of his Figaro Trilogy. It was adapted to the (likely now better known) opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1786, with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte.
A French play, adapted to opera by an Austrian, with an Italian libretto in the 18th century; so why not in English with a Scottish accent in the 21st?
None of potential problems of updating classic texts to contemporary settings apply to this utterly vibrant and highly comic adaptation by Glasgow based writer DC Jackson. Speaking in the Lyceum’s programme about the universality of the characters and the humour, Jackson says he could, “just … [place] them in the modern world and [let] them go.” and of the very human appeal of “…an audience in Edinburgh in 2012 laughing at a joke that was written in 1778.”
The design of the theatre may be more conducive to the original era of the tale of Figaro than the set of swivel chairs, slim desks and Mondrianesque squares on the walls, but the eternal story of sexual politics and office machinations overrides this.
The story is of such shenanigans on the day of the marriage between Figaro Ferguson (Mark Prendergast) and Suzanne Jamieson (Nicola Roy), each in the Asset Management business (aye, bankers) and about to be involved in a merger with the mega company owned by Randall, The Chief (Stuart Bowman), a man who shouts against sexual harassment but whose actions scream the opposite, and his wife Roisin, The Chair (Briony McRoberts), she of Chanel suits and old Scottish money.
The Chief wants his very wicked old way with the lovely young Suzanne; Pavlo (Jamie Quinn), the Ukrainian office boy, is infatuated by a much older woman, The Chair; Figaro has a contract to marry another older woman, Margery, the long standing and long suffering PA (Molly Innes); Barry, the OCD accountant (Greg Powrie) is constantly deflated and ignored to the detriment of the Chief, Randy Randall, who eventually gets his comeuppance through the clever feminine manipulations of Suzanne and Roisin.
Of course everyone ends with itches of ambition and sex all duly scratched in happy coupledom (well, almost all).
It is virtually impossible to single out anyone in particular from this superb cast. Greg Powrie has morphed himself in to a thoroughly believable remnant from Last of the Summer Wine in the easily defeated Barry with a penchant for penguin suits. Despite the ill-chosen stockings, Molly Innes plays Margery, the cajoling, conniving eyes and ears of the organisation, with dry, comic aplomb. Jamie Quinn, plays the updated Cherubim, Pavlo, with the crab- like body language of Lee Ross in Secrets and Lies and startled demeanour of Mathew Horne in Gavin and Stacey. Nicola Roy is gorgeous perfection throughout as sexy Suzanne and Stuart Bowman is every inch the vain and powerful and deeply sexist alpha male. Briony McRoberts played her part wearing a stookie so top marks for stoicism.
“Not now!” was all the poor office menials got as they made attempts at delivering what turned out to be important papers. These non-speaking parts were carried out very well especially by the girl in the trouser suit (sorry, can’t be more specific) whose facial expressions revealed real comic potential.
Mark Prendergast as the convincing and cheeky wee Figaro Ferguson probably gave the biggest surprise by his delivery of impressive Mozart arias during scene changes that knocked the socks off the audience.
While it stretches the imagination that even the most strident, ambitious, modern young woman would be at her work on the day of her wedding, this wonderfully non PC production that is full of highly comic, vibrant and inventive language allows the audience to easily suspend that potential disbelief.
Writer Jackson may have stuck with many of the original jokes, but the script is full of very topical and Scottish in-jokes like the possibility of this mega-rich wheeler-dealer buying Rangers and a wee hint that we may actually be in an independent Scotland with reference to the wonderfully named singles’ dating site for older people of ‘biddiebuddies.scot’.
The quickfire patter and dialogue in this fast pace production is at once tight, sharp and smoothly delivered. There is not a dull second, never mind moment, in this wonderfully funny and highly sexual show.
23 March - 14 April
Tuesdays-Saturdays 7.45pm (Wednesdays and Saturdays 2.30pm)