“They seek him here, They seek him there, Those Frenchies seek him everywhere! Is he in heaven? Is he in hell? That damned elusive Pimpernel!”
Luckily for the audiences at the Theatre Royal however, he could be found onstage last night, and for the rest of this week!
In memory of the late Colin McIntyre, every summer the Theatre Royal puts on a series of thrillers to whet the appetites of the local folk. As a Nottingham native, I’ve been to a couple of these productions before in previous years, but The Scarlet Pimpernel blew any past production out the water!
Written by the Baroness Orczy in 1905, the play tells the tale of the foppish and whimsical aristocrat, Sir Percy Blakeney, whose puns and desire to please the Prince of Wales come before anything else. Set during the French Revolution, Sir Percy’s marriage to the French actress, Marguerite, is going well, until he learns of her betrayal of a family of French aristocrats who the sinister Citizen Chauvelin, representative of the Republic, subsequently had guillotined.
As Marguerite feels abandoned by the increasingly aloof Sir Percy, she is blackmailed by Chauvelin to assist in his discovery of the identity of the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel, a mysterious Englishman whose daring antics have saved the lives of many aristocrats fleeing the guillotine.
Of course, the Pimpernel is a lot closer to Marguerite than she thinks, and she inadvertently ends up betraying her husband, before a mad chase across the seas to France to ensure he is not arrested and killed.
“left the audience in fits of giggles all night”
A small cast ensured a lot of entertaining multi-roling, including the tall, dark and handsome Stephen Charrett and George Gough as giggling, twittering ladies, tittering behind their fans. The all-seeing Citizen Chauvelin, played by Mark Huckett, was a convincing villain, whilst Marguerite’s (Corinne Begluk) performance only strengthened as the play went on. The star of the show however, was undoubtedly Andrew Ryan as Sir Percy, whose portrayal of the laconic aristocrat, shoes perfectly polished and handkerchief held aloft, was spot on, and left the audience in fits of giggles all night.
Despite some initial sound problems, the booming volume ensuring nothing could be heard onstage, the rest of the play ran incredibly smoothly for press night. The innovative set, designed by John Goodrum, was used effectively and efficiently, two trunks becoming cases for swords, platforms and much besides. The scene changes could perhaps have been a little quicker off the mark, but this will undoubtedly improve as the week goes on.
“a comedic and fun period production”
Overall, The Scarlet Pimpernel, whilst perhaps not as ‘thrillerish’ as some would like and after a slow start, was a comedic and fun period production, whose cast bought the characters to life.
And if you can’t get this week, there’s always the last of the thrillers on next week, Arthur Conan Doyle’s (he of Sherlock fame) The Nightmare Room. Don’t miss supporting this local theatre, which makes a refreshing change from the big-name musicals that usually feature on the Theatre Royal’s stage.
Featured Image Courtesy of Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Official Facebook.