Pierre Marivaux’s The Feigned Inconstancy is one of two 18th century comedies being presented by the VCA’s graduating company of actors for 2008. Like its accompanying piece in the series – Goldoni’s The Fan – The Feigned Inconstancy is a farce centred around vain but star-crossed lovers and their attempts to secure one another’s affections. Director David Wicks has produced a solid work, making the most of a well-paced script that still manages to make us laugh knowingly about the fickle nature of love and relationships.
The title of the piece refers to the plan that the Marquise (Zahra Newman) and Dorante (Thomas Larkin) concoct to reclaim their wayward lovers the Captain (Josh Price) and the Countess (Julia Grace). By pretending to have fallen for each other, they hope to fill the true objects of their desire with jealousy and thus be reunited with them. But the path of love is never so simple, of course. While the characters are presented as almost cartoonish, the validity and depth of their emotions are never in question. This grounding in reality makes us care about these ludicrous characters, as we can recognise our own insecurities, personal failings and foolish romanticism exposed before our eyes. It keeps this 200 year-old comedy relevant and accessible for modern theatre-goers.
The cast seems to revel in the extreme silliness of the production. The show opens with a musical flourish, with the characters engaging in a series of exaggerated tableaux that foreshadow the developments to come. They jump up and down at various intervals, as if performing a demanding calisthenics routine. Similar choreographed vignettes take place between each of the acts, emphasising the intricate dance Marivaux’s characters perform as they swap allegiances and put elaborate schemes into practice. This over-the-top presentation is ever-present and works exceedingly well – the actors’ stylised, heightened performances feed their characters’ postulating and grand-standing. Music is also used cheekily to announce the arrival of characters to a scene, or emphasise visual gags.
The play is presented as it might have been to an unruly mob two centuries ago. Innuendos are punctuated with knowing winks to the audience, the language of the modern audience is sometimes used to contrast against the pomposity of these characters – a master gives his servant an encouraging thumbs up, the captain is unable to restrain himself from shouting “fuck” in a moment of exasperation. The actors play up to the audience’s laughter and sighs of sympathy - particularly the luckless Frontin, who stole many a scene with his shameless sulking thanks largely to an imaginative portrayal by Nick Cook.
While The Feigned Inconsistency does not quite reach its potential, it is a genuinely entertaining production with fine performances and enough ideas to give it ongoing momentum and charm.
THE FEIGNED INCONSTANCY
VCA Drama Company 2008
Dates: Tuesday 20 May – Wednesday 28 May 2008
Times: Mon-Fri 8pm; Sat 2pm & 8pm
Address: Performance Studio One, VCA Drama, 28 Dodds Street Southbank
Prices: $20 / $12
Bookings: email@example.com / 9685 9225