Thursday, 9 September 2004

The Dutch Courtesan by John Marston, Melbourne Uni, Sept 9, 2004

 The Dutch Courtesan by John Marston
Union House Theatre, Melbourne University
Guild Theatre September 9 to 18, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

The Dutch Courtesan, directed by Suzie Dee, is a lively production with entertaining moments and a couple of promising performers.

This university production comes with all the delights and problems of a student theatre show.

The cast is energetic, committed and clearly excited to be in this bawdy Jacobean comedy written in 1605 by John Marston.

 For some, the language, age range and comic characters are out of their reach - but others shine.

Jacobean comedies epitomised the excesses of the period.

While some were performing grotesque, graphic revenge tragedies to the court, others, such as Marston, were writing broad, sexy comedies.

Franceschina, (Hester Van der Vyer OK) a beautiful and tempting Dutch whore, seeks vengeance on her noble lover, Freevill,(OK) ( David Frazer) when she discovers his betrothal to a chaste maiden, Beatrice. (Rachel Purchase).

She plans to seduce Freevill's sorrowful and lovelorn friend, Malheureux (Michael Wahr) and compel him to murder Freevill in return for sexual favours.

Her plans go awry, of course, and the noble and chaste prevail.

In a sub-plot, the cheeky Cocledemoy  (Hugh Holt) dupes the inn keeper, Mulligrub (Seamus Magee) steals his goods and almost costs him his life.

The play is a frippery of its period bearing some resemblance to Shakespeare's comedies: broad comedy, bawdy themes and issues of propriety, morality, betrayal and honesty.

 Suzie Dee keeps the pace rapid and the mood light. She integrates physical comedy, montages and a woodwind trio. (Hanna Coleman, Tilly Junker, Steve Scholte)

Hester Van der Vyer is compelling as the manipulative strumpet, Franceschina. She balances delicacy with sensuality and venomous revenge.

Performances from Frazer and Wahr are competent. Purchase is a convincing whining Beatrice while Margaret Paul is a jaunty Mary Faugh.

Sam Koehne as Tysefew, has presence and has the only voice among the men that can handle the language of the period and age of the characters.

Ellen Hayward, as his love interest, Crispinella, is arch and entertaining.

It is perhaps no wonder that wicked plays such as this drove Marston, after a short theatrical career, to renounce the naughtiness of theatre and become a priest.

LOOK FOR: Fraceschina's song

By Kate Herbert

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