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The Soldiers’ Fortune

Published April 17, 2008

Two soldiers return from war with no money and no way of making a living outside the armed forces. Adjusting to society rather than war proves a problem. It sounds like a plotline taken straight from an anti-Vietnam movie. In fact, Otway's The Soldiers' Fortune was written three centuries beforehand. David Lan, Artistic Director of the Young Vic, chose now, another time when the plight of troops is at the top of the news, to revive the Restoration comedy. Matthew Amer attended the first night.

The answer, of course, to the problem of finding money if you are a well-sculpted former soldier, is to find a good woman who will pay for you… which is what Beaugard and Courtine attempt to do.

On Beaugard's part, his pay-ticket is a former love, Lady Dunce, who is now married to the cruel old fool Sir Davy Dunce. For Courtine, he finds love in the form of Sylvia, a woman with a wit and tongue as fast as his. To aid in such love-making fun you need a go between, or a pimp. Sir Jolly Jumble fits the bill.

It is Sir Jolly, really, who is the star of the show. A lewd, rude, voyeuristic, lisping camp luvvy of a character, as played with a hint of Larry Grayson by David Bamber – who on occasion makes you feel a touch dirty with his groping, watching ways and his repetition of the word 'boobies' – he is the puppet master, bringing everything together for those around him.

Our heroes – Ray Fearon's Beaugard and Alec Newman's Courtine – both struggle to control their tempers; possibly it is the readjustment to civilised life, possibly they are just angry young men wound up by love. Their two relationships are very different.

Courtine and Sylvia banter in a Much Ado About Nothing style, whereby we all know that they are in love with each other, even if they don't. Lady Dunce is the only person to know exactly what is going on in the love triangle between her, Beaugard and her husband – Oliver Ford Davies, in full nasally-twanging, chest-rumbling, ambitious, jealous, over-bearing patriarch mode – as she tries different ways to pass messages to her lover via her spouse.

Ben Turner's Fourbin, Beaugard's French servant with an accent just the right side of Monty Python, is an ominous, threatening presence in a generally light-hearted play, and as such, falls foul of being underused.

David Lan, in his first directorial role at the refurbished Young Vic, lends music and dance to the show with an onstage five-piece band adding some mood music, as well as joining in with ensemble parts, and several scenes ending with a song or a jig to keep the mood light.

MA

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