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BWW Review: THE LOTTERY OF LOVE, Orange Tree Theatre

Love and disguise are the order of the day as the Orange Tree's 2016-17 programme continues with a new John Fowles translation of Pierre Marivaux's The Lottery of Love. The 18th-century play in this production has more than a whiff of Jane Austen about it, with characters in Regency dress and placing great importance on propriety and good manners.

Sylvia's father wants her to marry Richard, but marriage is the last thing that she wants - much to the consternation and confusion of her chambermaid Louisa. But so as not to appear disagreeable she agrees to meet with Richard, on the condition that she and Louisa switch places so she can observe his nature from afar. Little does Sylvia know that Richard has begged the same favour of his own father! Mr Morgan, apprised of Richard's plan to present himself as John Brass through his father, indulges his daughter's request and leaves the rest to fate, only letting his son Martin in on the secret.

The Regency England setting is the perfect match for this story, as the era has a natural association with romantic tales - and both Austen and Marivaux have a sharp wit in common.

Played in the round, this production stands out from the crowd by foregoing a set a completely - aside from a beautiful rose chandelier hanging from the ceiling that flickers and glows intermittently through the show. The chandelier adds a touch of magic to proceedings, whilst the lack of furniture and props allows for the play to move seamlessly between acts and maintain an appropriate pace unhindered by multiple scene transitions. The story is absolutely the focus, and has no need to be embellished with visual aids. Subtle sound design from Max Pappenheim does just enough to immerse the audience in Marivaux and Fowles' world.

Pip Donaghy and Tam Williams make a mischievous father and son pairing, who clearly relish the two couples being in the dark about their respective identities. For Donaghy as Mr Morgan it is all light-hearted joshing, however Williams brings out a mean streak in Martin that gives a bit of edge to his character.

The lovers are at the heart of the story, and also do their bit to bring the audience in - whether through choice asides, knowing glances or Keir Charles as Brass trying to escape his master's wrath. Dorothea Myer-Bennett and Ashley Zhangazha give more of an emotional performance as Sylvia and Richard Fall in love, whereas Charles and Claire Lams provide Brass and Louisa with a more flirtatious courtship; both couples have their share of tender and entertaining moments at various points in the play.

The Lottery of Love is a bright and cheery tale about the age-old foibles of love. Its minimalist design and high-calibre performances are a winning combination, and examples of storytelling at its finest. Buying a ticket to this production is a guarantee of hitting the jackpot.

The Lottery of Love is at the Orange Tree Theatre until 13 May

Picture credit: Helen Maybanks

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From This Author - Debbie Gilpin