Top theatre production of period comedy on screen

2010-07-22 00:00

Film Review

Review – London Assurance

Cinema Nouveau Gateway

FROM the moment he makes his ­appearance on stage as a mincing dandy, desperate not to show his age, Simon Russell Beale steals the show in the National Theatre production of London Assurance, which is being screened at Cinema Nouveau Gateway until Sunday.

The show is the fifth National ­Theatre production to be flighted on the big screen and follows in the footsteps of Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, Phèdre (starring Helen Mirren), Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, and a stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Nation.

Written in 1841 by Dion Boucicault, this period romp tells the story of Sir Harcourt Courtley (Beale), a man in his 50s, who is lured away from fashionable London by the promise of a rich and beautiful bride, Grace (Michelle Terry). His intended bride’s late father held the mortgage (bond) on his estate and these will ­only be released if he marries Grace. If he doesn’t the deeds to the estate and Grace’s own fortune will go to Courtley’s heir.

Grace, meanwhile, isn’t bothered about who she marries as long as she gets to stay in the country and continue doing the things she loves best. All that changes, however, when she meets Courtley’s son Charles (Paul Ready), who is trying to get away from his creditors in London.

Charles returns her affections and secures the help of Grace’s cousin, Lady Gay Spanker (Fiona Shaw), to stop his father’s wedding. Also keen to help the lovers is Richard Dazzle (Matt Cross), a young man who has secured an invitation to Oak Hall in Gloucestershire from Grace’s uncle, Max Harkaway (Mark Addy). Between them they hit on a plan to get Lady Spanker to lead Courtley astray.

Shaw has a whale of a time playing the ebullient Lady Spanker, who loves nothing more than to hunt, drink and smoke cigars — and the “love” scenes with her and Beale are worth the price of the entry ticket alone. Don’t miss it.


• London Assurance is at Cinema Nouveau at 7.30 pm on Friday, 5.30 pm on July 24 and 25, and at 7.30 pm on July 28. A second season of NT Live will launch in September and will include Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Danny Boyle’s (Slumdog Millionaire) production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

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