THE DOG IN THE MANGER
CTW at the Old Court
Lope de Vega's classic El perro del Hortelano, cleverly Englished by David Johnston, was an Iberian blockbuster to end the season for Chelmsford Theatre Workshop. Sangria and Spanish guitar in the foyer, and a great play in the airless auditorium.
Vega was Shakespeare's contemporary, [this play dates from 1613, the year after The Tempest] and the similarities go way beyond the staging – two side doors, a wide door centre stage, arras windows and a broad arena. So we had a child long lost at sea, soliloquies and various adventures on the bumpy course of true love. And some tender, poetical moments amongst the gags and the grotesque characters.
Christine Davidson's talented cast included an agile and wily gracioso from Barry Taylor, Kat Tokely as the Countess who “desires a man beneath her”, Ruth Cramphorn as her Marcela, and Dean Hempstead as the hapless secretary with whose affections she toys.
Memorable turns, too, from Ivor Jeavons as the doddery dupe Ludovico, and Jeremy Battersby and Mark Preston as two unsuitable suitors.
Jim Hutchon was at the first night for the Chelmsford Weekly News:
Christine Davidson’s very classy production of this translated Spanish farce is an absolute gem, with intrigue, betrayal and a truly comic narrative full of twists and turns. It follows the fortunes of a 17thCentury Princess Diana – as wilful as her 20thCentury counterpart – who fancies her secretary and won’t let him free to marry his love.
Kat Tokely is the princess, and shows an extraordinary versatility in switching moods fleetingly between love, anger and haughtiness. Her secretary, Dean Hempstead, who has a quiet sense of comic timing, is equally adept at carelessly switching his affections between Marcela (Ruth Cramphorn as a confused and hurt lady-in-waiting) and the princess, who he sees as the ultimate prize.
Two of Diana’s other suitors, the super arrogant OTT Ricardo with the outrageous cod pieces (Jeremy Battersby) and the ever-funny and sad Federico (Mark Preston) were a pairing made in heaven. Key comic plaudits must go to Barry Taylor as Tristan, whom I have rarely seen in more spectacular form, ranging from the impecunious servant, to bloodthirsty assassin, to Greek trader with the improbable name of Stavros Kebabs. There are too many other excellent small cameos to mention, but the whole talented and disciplined cast never put a foot wrong.
The costumes in this feast for the eyes were immaculately produced by Tony Brett, with painstaking attention to accurate detail – even down to the most lowly of servants.
If you don’t go to see anything else this year, don’t miss this one, it is an evening to remember. It is on from 28th - 31st July. Box Office 01245 606505.