Dion Boucicault ’s hilarious farce “London Assurance,” first produced in 1841 and currently on the main stage at the Irish Repertory Theatre has nothing whatsoever to do with real life today – as there is certainly no assurance when it comes to the current affairs of the UK, America and Ireland. Directed with an exuberant charm and a wise, vivacious spirit by the estimable Charlotte Moore, “London Assurance” will take you for over two hours far, far away from real life. You must go immediately and be transported.
The intricate plot, designed to showcase the myriad gifts of these wonderful actors, is as follows: In London’s hoity-toity Belgrave Square, Cool, a servant (Elliot Joseph), lies for his master, Young Charles Courtly (Ian Holcomb), a player, a boozer, and a lad about town, to protect him from his father, Sir Harcourt Courtly (Colin McPhillamy), whose adherence to decorum and vanity knows no bounds. Sir Harcourt has become engaged, sight unseen, to a beautiful lass of nineteen, Grace Harkaway (Caroline Strang), who lives with her uncle Max (Brian Keane) in the country. A feminist before her time, Grace declares to the house servant, Pert (Meg Hennessey) that she abhors love, has no use for it. So the marriage is of no consequence to her, and is only to secure her dowry. But Dazzle, a hanger-on (Craig Wesley Divino), who claims to be related to every prominent family in England, has other plans. He wangles an invite to Max’s country estate, and brings Young Charles with him. Max has already invited Sir Harcourt. Once Young Charles sees Grace, he is smitten. She is not. Once Sir Harcourt sees Grace, he is smitten. She is not. Once Sir Harcourt sees his son, he is furious, so Young Charles claims to be someone else. Once another guest shows up, the outrageous Lady Spanker (Rachel Pickup), Sir Harcourt is also smitten – until her husband, Adolphus Spanker (Robert Zuckerman) joins her. Confusion and high jinks ensue.
This is a fast-paced show, and there is a lot of physicality and a lot of keeping all plates in the air at once, as it were. This ensemble cast is as tight and as cohesive as it gets – in short, they are absolutely brilliant. A few standouts: I cannot imagine this show without the benevolent pomposity of Colin McPhillamy’s Sir Harcourt, or the flamboyance of Rachel Pickup’s Lady Gay Spanker – what she does with fruit and veg onstage is delicious.
One Magazine has always had the utmost respect for the scenic and costume designers at the Irish Repertory Theatre; but both the sets by Scenic Designer James Noone and the Costume Design by Sara Jean Tosetti for “London Assurance” are absolutely beautiful. We’d happily take up residence there, if offered.
This farce was an inspired choice by the Irish Repertory Theatre to end the season of this turbulent year 2019. You will leave feeling better than when you walked in. I and “London Assurance” can assure you of that.