Too Clever by Half
By Alexandr Ostrovsky
Royal Exchange Theatre, 15 July 2013
You are presented with an excess of enjoyments in this riotous production of Ostrovsky’s comedy of manners.
Wherever you look, you are entranced. This is so whether you focus on the several wonderful individual performances – where Nick Haverson, Lisa Hammond and Debbie Korley just about edged it over the others – or at the many inventive aspects of the staging. Most striking of all here, perhaps: a brobdingnagian bear with glowing eyes. Maybe he shared a first name with the author of the forthcoming An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence. Then again, maybe not.
The story itself is rather humdrum: a young man on the make, penniless yet shrewd Gloumov (Dyfan Dwyfor), keeps a diary where he records his real thoughts and feelings about the flotsam and jetsam he finds alongside him as he swims towards survival and a hoped-for success. When the diary is discovered, he comes over all high and mighty, making out that the exposure of hypocrisy was his genuine motive. It’s OK as a storyline, nothing special, but the theatrical realisation is nothing less than brilliant. And the choice of music, not least Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones, is inspired.
Too Clever by Half is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 17 August, further details can be found here.