Two plays in the same week featured a mash-up of authors’ works.
LipService’s Mr Darcy Loses The Plot at Theatre Royal Winchester found Austen’s hero leaving Pride And Prejudice to blunder into Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Mrs Gaskell’s Mary Barton and even Beatrix Potter. It was very funny, not least because Austen’s creation has become a staple in subsequent literature, the dark silent hero with a hidden vulnerability.
In London, Menier Chocolate Factory’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties may have hit some higher intellectual targets, such as Leninism, Dadaism and the tricks of memory, but it didn’t quite match the hit rate of laughs achieved by the pair of slick, professional comics that is LipService.
Hardly anything they did was new but, boy, did they do it to perfection. We’ve seen live actors disappear into film projection before but rarely with such perfect timing as when Darcy and Elizabeth move behind the screen to appear seamlessly in the ball and then dance out of it just as smoothly. We’ve seen actors have to change their appearance or actions to match a changing narrative but the gameness and confusion Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding conveyed to the audience was worthy of Morecambe and Wise.
In Travesties too, a faulty memory meant that scenes and characters changed in a dizzying trip into the past. It was 1917 in Geneva when James Joyce, Vladimir Lenin, the founder of Dadaism and a British embassy official, played brilliantly by Tom Hollander, might have met (but actually didn’t). Hollander’s character is the unreliable narrator who misremembers events and mixes them up with The Importance of Being Earnest in which he was cast at the time.
We each have a history and so does art and so does the world. Both plays said much about how we rewrite the plots of our lives and change the meaning of the past and how the strands of our culture are inextricably entwined. And both productions did it with energy, panache and tremendous fun.