23 December 2013

Fortune's Fool at the Old Vic

I love the theatre and I see a lot of very good plays but, occasionally, one falls flat and that is usually at one of the major West End theatres. Fortune's Fool was one of those duds.

The promotional material described it as "savagely funny" which seemed like a good thing to take the family to as a Christmas treat. The clincher was the presence of Iain Glen who we all know and love from Game of Thrones.

So it was a great disappointment on arriving at the Old Vic to discover that Iain Glen would not be performing.

That started a debate on the rights of theatres to do that. If I booked to see Bob Dylan and he was indisposed then I would not be expected to settle for  tribute band but theatres think that they can use big stars to sell tickets and then not offer any compensation when they fail to produce the big stars.

The play, by Ivan Turgenev, is set in pre-revolution Russia for which Downton Abbey is a good approximation. A young heiress has been away from home for a few years and returns with her new husband who is keen to revitalise the large estate. He is advised by a flamboyant neighbour and has to contend with the old fool who also live in the house.

There is some humour in the situation and the characters and while I smiled a lot and laughed a few times it would not be fair to call it savagely funny, or anything close to that.

There is a serious side to the story too concerning the fool's possible fortune and his relationship to the family. A conclusion, of sorts, is reached but this part of the story lacks bite, realism and, well, drama.

With thin humour and weak drama it was difficult to see what the point of the play was. I am not sure that Iain Glen could have rescued the situation but he would have made a poor situation better.

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