Modish wit

11th November 1994 at 00:00
The Man of Mode, By George Etherege. Out of Joint

Max Stafford-Clark and his ace company make Etherege's play a ferocious outburst of savagery in which grasping appetite makes society a wolvish battleground. Like all this director's work, the production makes the play precise and clear, every line analysed and functional.

It is restoration comedy stripped bare - quite literally in moments like the opening where David Westhead's Dorimant enters in underclothes, chamber-pot in hand. Westhead gives a superb study in callous cynicism and calls to mind Lord Are in Bond's Restoration - Etherege emerges as more cousin to Edward Bond than upper-class Alan Ayckbourn.

Bitterness and betrayal spin off from Dorimant's plotting, notably in Katrina Levon's rejected Mrs Lovett and Cathryn Bradshaw's perplexed Belinda. Nicola Walker's bright Emilia and Amanda Drew's Marriet ensure the women's voices are fully differentiated. Jason Watkins presents a model of the supercilious sidekick in Medley.

There are laughs but the application of puritan production to cavalier drama chastens Sir Fopling Flutter, despite Tim Potter's hard work. Even his costume excesses are limited to red tassels and lining.

Tours to Canterbury, Poole, Chichester until December3 then at the Royal Court, London. Runs 2 hours 25 minutes. Details 071 609 0207.

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