Through October 30
ENGAGED Royal George Theatre/Shaw Festival
While it’s, at least for now, the United Kingdom, that disguises some major differences between England and Scotland, like the entire legal system.
There’s also the higher education system, but W.S. Gilbert didn’t write about that.
Instead, he wrote “Engaged” in 1877, a look at the way the separate legal systems can interfere with marital plans, while giving his audiences a chance to laugh at those kilted Scots who speak a language which is supposed to be English but the people from South of the Border can’t understand it.
Decades ago, I was in a tourist town deep in the Highlands and you really couldn’t figure out what the locals were saying, except “Cheerio!”
My Campbell ancestors might not like the portrayal of the Scots on this stage.
The legal question is where the garden of a decrepit cottage is in England or Scotland, the location decides if a casual pitch of potential marriage is binding (Scotland) or not (England).
It’s all built around the conniving and scheming of Cheviot Hill (Gray Powell) and his verbal moves on women, every woman who comes within vocal range of him.
He’s insatiable and incurable and wonderfully played by Powell.
The script twists around a series of different relationship which are trying to become permanent in marriage.
The script also twists around the class structure which relies on inherited wealth since no one here actually seems to work for a living.
But, one marriage potentially cuts another off from wealth, leaving him broke and incapable of supporting a wife.
The idea of supporting a marriage with a job isn’t in the social consensus.
So, one marriage is at the stage where the bride has her wedding dress on and the reception table set when the question arises whether he’s already married because of the rules in Scotland.
“Engaged” is one of those period pieces where you have to go with the flow because you really don’t understand the legal or historical context.
Powell’s Hill carries it along with his acrobatic stage work, trying to keep everyone happy and get himself married.
What is a little different here is that the couples in the script actually want to be married by their own choice, rather than in the arranged marriages of money and class common in the upper ranges of society in this day.
That doesn’t mean money isn’t an issue because it clearly is.
For our social customs today, this play is on the shift from the old ways to the new of our time.
We have the tangled relationship between a wonderful Nicole Underhay’s Belinda Treherne and Jeff Meadows’ Belyawney, Hill and Diana Donnelly’s Minnie Symperson and Martin Happer’s Angus Macalister and Julia Course’s Maggie Mcfarlane.
Each relationship is different and social customs impinge each time.
Director Morris Panych does a strong job of moving it all along, telling the story and never losing sight of Gilbert’s tale and the humor in it.
He has a good set from Ken MacDonald for the relatively small stage of the Royal George Theatre with Charlotte Dean’s costumes.
“Engaged” is one of those humorous stories with a lot of comedy and a lot of issues to be talked about after the curtain drops.
It’s worth seeing and enjoying.
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