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London Assurance

Liverpool Playhouse

June 3rd – June 7th

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Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website


Just what is it about the ravishing heiress Grace Harkaway that attracts the attentions of both the self-deluded dandy Sir Harcourt Courtly, and his rakish son Charles? Destined to be married for her money, Grace professes indifference to her fate until Charles arrives at her country estate.

Then there is Mr. Dazzle, a conman who says he is related to everybody worth being related to, and so ingratiates himself upon the family with such ease, everybody says they know the stranger intimately for fear of appearing foolish … in a Emperor’s New Clothes kind of way, whilst he schemes and plots to get as much out of the family as he possibly can.

And therein lies the rub.


Having witnessed possibly the finest play to have come out of the Playhouse in many a long year in Tartuffe, it may well be seen as a bit of a mistake to have put another period comedy on the stage so soon afterwards because, simply, it is impossible not to compare the two and, sadly – for all of its cleverness – London Assurance falls down because it just isn’t up to the same standard.

Okay, there are moments in the work that have some giggle points – most of which emanate from the fabulous Geraldine McNulty who’s Lady Gay Spanker, the target of Courtly’s affections throughout the latter stages of the play, is everything an English eccentric woman should be: domineering, loud, brash and odd, with just the right amount of wisdom to make her accessible and warm.

Gerard Murphy, too, as the vain and pompous Harcourt Courtly, is strangely endearing as the upper-class toff who feels he should be loved and admired for the fact that he alive, and Christopher Ryan as the diminutive Adolphus Spanker – known affectionately as Dolly by his good wife – also brings a certain charm to proceedings.

Yet with all this said, London Assurance tries to damn hard to be too damn clever for its own good and using twenty words where six might have done the job just as well becomes tedious in the extreme.

It may well have been fine in the nineteenth century and earned the plaudits for writer Dion Boucicault from none other than Oscar Wilde, but now all it manages to do is lose the audience to the point that after thirty minutes they are asking themselves if they care about the characters and, after twenty more, come back with the answer not really, no.
Nice set, some good performances and really, really nice costumes but, apart from all this, London Assurance is all very thin on substance for all its lexicographic gymnastics.


Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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