"It is the sex, stupid!"
by Marco Marrese for remotegoat on 26/08/11

La Ronde is one of those plays that had its strength in being subversive. A real punch in the stomach for a society steeped in conformism and respectability, but obsessed about sex as much (and no more) than any other. It does inevitably lose strength today, when sex is everyday staple and we are, for that, less obsessed about it.

Yes, the chain of sketches is clever; yes, the eroticism is there; yes, we get it, courtship is just a means to an end; yes, rich and poor, educated and underclass, it's all about the sex (and it's always about it); but, so what?
It is a bit of a struggle to deliver the original destabilizing blow.

Joel Cottrell (director) and the Harbinger Company try to do it with a mix of ideas but, to be honest, there's only so much that could be done.
They set the play in England, in the '50s, in a stated bid to get it up and close (it's interesting that a recent Italian adaptation was set in England at the very beginning of the '60s). Frankly, I am not sure how many in the audience bothered to note and whether the play would have not profited more from the contrast of a more remote setting.
Much more interesting is the addition of music into the play. Unfortunately, for as much as the idea is good, the delivery doesn't match. The music score is rather dull and while Charlie Walsh (singer) is a fabulous voice, I am sorry, she needs to learn French pronunciation, otherwise there is not much point in having Les Fleurs du Mal sang: those who can't understand French, won't enjoy the idea, and those who can… well, we enjoyed it even less. Worst of all, the music lengthens the duration of the play to more than two hours (with interval), which is a bit too much.

Anyway, just to be sure, the Director takes the shortcut to every audience's heart and asks his actors to deliver the sexual encounters in a quite explicit way. They do it well, so congratulations to them.
In fact, the show stands thanks to their performances. Alice Beaumont is spectacular in her roles, delivering much comedy and dumb stupidity as the Young Girl and wit and playfulness as the Maid. Simon Purdey has to endure quite a sweating in his tour de force of three characters and does it at the very best, creating a strong differentiation among them. William Nash is casted perfectly as a Young Man and as a Poet. In particular, he is brilliant in his first role, provoking plenty of sniggers among the men in the audience (I guess many of us saw themselves there…). And Victoria Fischer is a robust performer.

This is a good and solid performance, as one would expect for anything that goes on at the White Bear, it is just that one feels it could have been even better, had it not been over-thought and over-done.

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