Simon Russell Beale in London Assurance
(© Catherine Ashmore)
Simon Russell Beale in London Assurance
(© Catherine Ashmore)
Nicholas Hytner's revival of Dion Boucicault's London Assurance, starring Simon Russell Beale as Sir Harcourt Courtly and Fiona Shaw as Lady Gay Spanker, opened at London's National Theatre on March 10. The production, which has been designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting by Neil Austin, music by Rachel Portman and sound by John Leonard, is booking through June 2.

Boucicault's 1841 comedy focuses on a gentleman (Beale) who is lured away from the epicenter of fashionable London by the promise of a rich and beautiful bride, several decades his junior. Arriving at Oak Hall, Gloucestershire, he marvels at this rural Venus until her charms are eclipsed by her hearty cousin (Shaw).

The company also features: Richard Frame (Martin), Junix Inocian (Mr Soloman Isaacs), Tony Jayawardena (Mark Meddle), Simon Markey (James), Laura Matthews (Servant), Prasanna Puwanarajah (Servant), Paul Ready (Charles Courtly), Nick Sampson (Cool), Maggie Service (Pert), Michelle Terry (Grace Harkaway), and David Whitworth (Doctor).

In the first night reviews, the critics are praising both Beale and Shaw's performances and finding much to enjoy in Hytner's revival.

Among the reviews are:

Evening Standard
Period comedy revived by star performances of great London Assurance
"Simon Russell Beale's Sir Harcourt is the main attraction, a mixture of Napoleonic imperiousness and pop-eyed camp. Fiona Shaw's Lady Gay is a gallery of equestrian eccentricities. They spar and flirt beguilingly."

The Guardian
London Assurance
"But the real pleasure, in Nicholas Hytner's sprightly revival, lies in the playing. Donald Sinden, in a famous RSC production, made Sir Harcourt a basso profundo fop. Russell Beale takes a different line by emphasising the character's sexual ambivalence. Floating airily round in brocade dressing-gown and billowing trousers, he recalls how his wife ran off with his best friend, wistfully adding "And I miss him.""

-----

"Fiona Shaw's Lady Gay Spanker, puffing heartily on a cigar, is a similarly rich study in sexual equivocation."

The Independent
First Night: London Assurance, Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, London
"Simon Russell Beale made his reputation, over twenty years ago, playing egregious Restoration fops at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He now returns, in a blaze of comic glory, to this effeminate breed in Nicholas Hytner's deliriously funny revival of London Assurance."

Whatsonstage.com
London Assurance "Nicholas Hytner's revival of Dion Boucicault's Victorian comic potboiler is perfectly enjoyable, with pleasurable performances by Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw, but it's not revelatory."

London Theatre Guide
First Night Feature: London Assurance
"Russell Beale makes Courtly an unashamedly camp caricature of a man, garnering huge laughs from the moment he makes his self-important entrance like a Z-list star at the premiere of someone else's movie."

-----

"Coming a close second in the comedy stakes is Fiona Shaw as the hunting-obsessed Gay Spanker. Self-assured, heartily vigorous and always genial, Gay speaks mostly in hunting metaphors when she is not laughing her head off at the obvious weaknesses of the men around her."

For further information, visit: www.nationaltheatre.org.uk