Review: The Belle's Stratagem - Southwark Playhouse, London

Friday 9th September 2011

In one of the greatest hits of Georgian times, The Belle's Stratagem is revived at the Southwark Playhouse.

Jackie Clune, Hannah Spearritt and Maggie Steed
Photo by Jane Hobson
The story in a nutshell, is that this is set in a time when women were second-class citizens, and a group of ladies are determined to get their own way... 
When, beautiful Letitia Hardy’s (Gina Beck) betrothed returns from the Grand Tour convinced that English women are dull, she sets out to gain his love with an ingenious scheme to prove him wrong.
Meanwhile, the jealous Sir George Touchwood (Joseph Macnab) arrives in town with his new wife, Lady Frances (Hannah Spearritt), in tow. It’s not long before two of London’s most rambunctious wits, Miss Ogle and Mrs Rackett (Jackie Clune & Maggie Steed), make it their mission to convert her into a lady of fashion.

The first half opens with the company performing an arrangement of Lily Allen's LDN, which was a nice touch to the proceedings, making way for the story telling.
A Spice Girls 'Wannabe' variation added a touch of humour and familiarity for todays audiences (think Baroque 'n' Pop), I just wish there were more of these witty and musical interludes to add more pace to act one, which seemed to be rather slow on this occasion.

Joseph Macnab, Jackie Clune, Hannah Spearritt and Maggie Steed
Photo by Jane Hobsonn
Act two was more vibrant and colourful, and the production shifted pace, with even more great acting and singing from the company.
I must mention Christopher Logan, who plays Flutter. He has fantastic comic expressions with an air of Kenneth Williams about him, he was very funny to watch, and a credit to the production.

Gina Beck was in fine voice too, her character blossoming throughout, along with Maggie Steed and her haughty Mrs Racket, a pleasure to watch.

The set consisted of drapes, a chaise longue and a couple of chairs, very minimal, but it is all it needs in this space, along with a harpsichord and the odd drum and guitar too. The voices of the un-mic'd cast carried well under the arches in the Playhouse, even though at times due to the structure of the space, there was the occasional rise in volume when the actors were facing a certain way.

All in all, an enjoyable and humorous production, go catch it while you can.

By Hannah Cowley.
Directed by Jessica Swale.

Main House, Southwark Playhouse
Shipwright Yard
Corner of Bermondsey St. and Tooley St. London SE1 2TF

Nearest Tube: London Bridge

6 September – 1 October 2011
Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm
Saturday matinees at 3.15pm

Box Office
Online (24 hours / no booking fees)
Telephone 020 7407 0234 (no booking fees)

Ticket Prices
£10, £15, £10
‘Airline Style’ pricing. The earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets!

Disabled people can bring one companion free of charge. There are no other concessions

Please inform Southwark Playhouse of your access requirements at least 48 hours before you attend the performance by phoning 020 7407 0234.