This tale of an immortal man who pursues the same re-incarnated girl from the middle ages at seventy-five-year intervals until 2075 is a strange play – strong on originality and weak in nearly everything else. Nonetheless, flawed as the material is the talented Lindley Players make something reasonably entertaining out of it and it’s to the company’s credit that it produces such a wide variety and isn’t afraid, sometimes, to have a go at something riskily unusual.
Lucie Nash is terrific as the knowing flirtatious maid, Constance, who then reappears in a whole series of related personae down the centuries. Each character is differently voiced and she moves beautifully in character whether she’s a pregnant Victorian, a nun, a sexy American flapper and much more. Ollie Grayeson gives a fine performance as Ephraim who, dressed differently each time, chases Nash’s character down the ages and is variously rueful, puzzled, angry and despairing. It’s high-quality acting. Less successful is Russell Sutton’s ‘Host’ who appears in each scene and seems to be a sort of Mephistopholes character, communicating with the voice of his unseen ‘boss’ and manipulating the other characters. There are problems with his diction and he isn’t always audible.
Some of the directorial decisions in this production are odd. Why project a photograph of Kitchener to illustrate 1925 when Kitchener died in 1916? Why play Vivaldi to evoke 1795 when Vivaldi was at his peak 50 years earlier? And these are just examples.
Billed as a comedy The Eternal Courtship is amusing in places – and the whole concept is a joke of sorts – although it isn’t especially funny. The best of the humour comes from the incongruity of using modern, quite relaxed language, in historical situations and from lines such as the Host saying: “You’ve fancied her since the middle ages” or from Ephraim answering with nicely timed dramatic irony “Well I did …” when someone in the Twentieth Century asks him if he knows Shakespeare. In general though, the pace is a bit slow and it all falls a bit flat although the whole play runs only one hour and three quarters including an interval.
It’s a pleasant enough evening but not, I’m afraid, one of the better shows I’ve seen from the Lindley Players.
First published by Sardines http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Lindley%20Players%20Limited,%20The-Ten%20Times%20Two:%20The%20Eternal%20Courtship&reviewsID=2660