Gate Theatre, London W11
Opened 13 December, 1990

The Gate's Lope de Vega Project continues, paradoxically, with this 17th-century intrigue comedy by Tirso de Molina. Plot synopsis is impossible: suffice it to say that disguises and deceits abound, and the protagonist is a cross-dressing woman. The ever-increasing brouhaha is brought off with verve and aplomb by Boswell and his company. They move through a succession of improbable developments with utter conviction, and manage to defuse the purple excesses of Tirso's dialogue to modern ears without ever lapsing into sterile campery. Kate Lock, in particular, plays the lovelorn and confused Doña Ines with a range of precisely controlled mugging that even acquits her with dignity from an it's-all-right-now dénouement wilder than any of Molière's.

In addition to being richly comic, the play constantly keeps within its sights issues of manipulation and abuse of faith, of the imperatives of dignity and respect. Doña Juana's convoluted stratagems to regain (and chasten) her betrothed trample merrily over the integrity of everyone she comes into contact with, yet she never loses audience sympathy - this is an old-fashioned comedy, after all. They may not make 'em like that any more, but this tight, assured and joyous production keeps the tradition alive and kicking.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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