Punchline recommends Marriage

9 Aug

Marriage 2015

Words by Suzy Romer

Take a dream cast of sketch and comedy performers, a delightful play, a talented director (Russell Bolam) and what do you get? Marriage. Tom Parry’s fresh, energetic adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s 1842 play retains charmingly old-time language and references while maintaining the urgency and scepticism of questions which remain relevant today. We women would all like a man who is handsome, a man who is rich and a man who is noble, but what do we do if all three turn up on the same afternoon?

Such is the predicament of the lovely Agatha, played by Celeste Dring to perfection as a slightly silly but adorable young dreamer who neglects her accomplishments, perhaps sensing instinctively that a knowledge of French or the ability to paint is not the reason most men want to marry. Camille Ucan plays the cunning marriage broker with such joyous, ferrety efficiency that you can almost sniff her in the air when she wafts onstage. Agatha’s aunt (Freya Parker) promises us with a thrilling sparkle in her eye that the up-and-coming grocer downstairs is very good-looking but her older, female wisdom comes under threat from Agatha’s romantic ideals and other more sinister quarters.

Enter the likeable but confoundedly lazy Peter (Ben Clark) who is dragged – sometimes literally –into trying his luck as yet another suitor to Agatha by his duplicitous friend (Adam Riches). Ben Clark provides the cheerful, sleepy glamour that makes him so believably attractive as a suitor, even in his most cosseted, narcissistic moments. Meanwhile, Adam Riches embodies his Tartuffe-like friend with unsettling insouciance; the words “snake” and “charmer” both apply here but his unhappy secrets, which occasionally break through the deceit, make us wonder how often marriage was and is a disastrous eventuality in many cases.

The actors who play the brokered triplet of suitors embrace their vices and virtues with equal viciousness and virtuosity. Mr Rich-but-too-Round (John Henry Falle) counts chairs and custard tarts with more passion than he could ever summon up for a lover and his best shot at a romantic poem makes the audience sigh with a mixture of sentiment and exasperation. Mr Fit-but-Frisky (Ciaran Dowd) provides a simmering energy that forever threatens to boil over, though luckily he is too loveable to be frightening. The suitor I personally found most agonising was Mr Dashing-but-Dull enacted by Owen Roberts as a heart-melting gentleman with soul-withering stories, enough to make Sicily sound like a tax form. We must also pay tribute to the servant Stephen who looks after everyone, played by Richard Soames with understated brilliance. Would that we all had a Stephen to look after our domestic comforts as well as our egos, although perhaps if we did, then no one would ever get married at all.

So here’s my Marriage proposal. Go and see this show at 2pm, then go and see the shows of the individual performers throughout the rest of the day (Adam Riches, Beasts, Beta Males, Birthday Girls, Lazy Susan, Pappy’s and Richard Soames). It may well be the happiest day of your life.

You can see Marriage in Assembly George Square at 14:00 until August 30.

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