The Guardsman

Thursday, 12 October, 2000

The play concerns an actor who believes his actress wife of 6 months no longer loves him and so he puts into action a plot to test her fidelity. He secretly sends her roses, with her thinking they are from a secret admirer. The actor then disguises himself as a guardsman so he can seduce her. Will she recognise him as her husband? Will she submit to the Guardsman's charm?

Written in 1911, this is your typical farcical comedy of past-paced-action, subterfuge and confusion. Unfortunately, it is not a 'great' comedy. It is an enchanting play, but it is not witty enough to sustain enjoyment for two hours. The charm of the main characters saves the play, but it is still a weak script that is wanting. This is a pity because the main plot is very good, what a shame Molnar couldn't capitalise on it. But then maybe he did and it is the adaptation at fault, or maybe the direction? Whatever, this production is only mildly amusing.

The actors didn't do much to help the creaky adaptation. Greta Scacchi as 'Ilona', the actress, fails to comically impress, playing the part too seriously and proper. Michael Pennington fairs better as ' Nandor', the actor. He plays the jealous insecure husband with witty and gregarious conviction. Unfortunately, some of the other cast members were pretty awful. Georgina Hale as 'Mother', was over played, and Laura Macaulay as 'Lisa, the maid', was excruciating!! One has to blame the director, Janet Suzman, for this!

The reviews in so far have been mixed….. BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES enjoyed the play, saying it is "always amusing". Nightingale was also impressed with the performance of Michael Pennington saying, "Pennington has seldom been better, first as the fretful, squirming, besotted stalker that Nandor initially is, then as the confused mix of men his disguise forces him to be. "MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GAURDIAN says, "Played with the lightest of touches, the play survives precariously. But, although Frank Marcus's translation possesses strokes of wit, Janet Suzman's production has a romping heaviness." NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD describes it as a "frail, forgettable comedy of lost illusions ." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH was disappointed saying, "A fascinating play about jealousy, illusion and desire is reduced to stagy artificiality. " He goes on to say , "A depressing night of squandered opportunity."

This production had the potential to be superb, but instead fails to impress. It could have been, and should have been, a lot better!

(Darren Dalglish)

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