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The Rover at Southwark Playhouse

Fiona Doyle

Aphra Behn's Restoration play The Rover is widely considered to be her most successful work.

In fact, Charles II was so impressed that he ordered a private viewing of the comedy. Written in a patriarchal society, Behn's endorsement of the female voice has led many to analyse her plays from a feminist angle.

As sisters Hellena (Natalie Macaluso) and Florinda (Rebecca Shanks) seek to experience one day and night of freedom before the latter is married off against her wishes and the former committed to a nunnery, Behn presents the typical traditions of the time.

With the addition of the character Angellica, a beautiful and sought-after courtesan whose heart is broken when she falls in love with a client, The Rover essentially explores the marketing of women in many different guises.

Sword fights, robberies and two-near rapes tinge the comedic aspect with an element of darkness while also providing plenty of action-packed material which director Naomi Jones skilfully manipulates by offering the audience a promenade experience.

One wonderful moment involves a complete transformation as spectators are gathered up from the carnival street set in the Southwark Playhouse bar area, and whisked off into the auditorium which promptly becomes the interior of Angellica's lavish abode.

Mika Handley's set design is wonderfully minimalist which allows the numerous transitions between interior and exterior to unfold convincingly. These transitions are further accentuated by Carolyn Downing's careful and subtle sound design.

With three storylines intricately intertwined, The Rover is certainly a demanding piece which requires a great amount of effort from all ten actors involved.

Sam Wilkin is particularly impressive in the title role as the swaggering scoundrel Wilmore, as is Seth Sinclair as the melancholic Belville (Florinda's forbidden love interest).

The general camaraderie and chemistry between actors is also clearly discernible – combined with the physical engagement of the promenade form, it seems Looking Glass House has succeeded in presenting a very involving and enjoyable experience for actor and spectator alike.

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