Bell Shakespeare’s wicked production of The School for Wives is a lot of fun, from the slapstick-prone servants to the wryly comical aristocrats, who all find themselves in a melee of hi-jinks related to sexual chastity. This was a favoured topic of 17th century French dramatist Molière, who is sharply translated here by Justin Fleming under the direction of Lee Lewis.
Arnolde (persuasively played by John Adam), is cynical about marriage. To avoid all the shenanigans of Parisian life, he lifts a little girl from poverty and puts her into a convent, to ensure her obedience and innocence until their union. This is The School for Wives. But he does not count on Horace (Meyne Wyatt), an energetic young gun, who tempts grown-up Agnes (Harriet Dyer) to betray her so-called benefactor.
What follows is good fun, accompanied by Mark Jones on piano, kazoo and other musical accompaniments that liven up what might otherwise be static and overly dramatic moments.
On the opening night, the closing scene was greeted with bewilderment as the cast danced … and danced … and danced. For many, this ending was confusing, but for those who paid attention, the dance was a fun commentary on how little Agnes went from convent girl to amorous woman.
Until Nov 24, Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, $33-72, 9250 7777, sydneyoperahouse.com