The picaresque peregrinations of Daniel Defoe's heroine – as she rises from abandoned wife and mother to become the mistress of Charles II, then declines into desperate society whoredom – are presented with amiable affectation and a demonstrative jollity that never quite wears thin. Roxana's blinding realisation midway through the play that she is, in fact, a proto-feminist – dedicated to living her life as a free agent rather than submitting to the yoke of matrimonial laws – isn't given any "aware" late 20th-century topspin; the story simply continues as per Defoe.
What The Johnson Family company can't shake, though, is the impression of being on a quest for a collective break: the production values are those of obtaining apt and stylish effects on the limited budget available to them. They succeed admirably and entertainingly, but retain an air of waiting for their next career move.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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