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La Locandiera
Published on Tuesday, 24 August 2010

4.5 stars

Assembly @ Vittoria Restaurant (venue website)
20 - 29 Aug (not 23, 24, 25, 26), 1:30pm (3:45pm); 18 - 30 Aug (not 23), 8:30pm (10:45pm)
Reviewed by Livi Watson

It’s not every day that you enter a twenty-first century Italian restaurant and find yourself in an eighteenth century Florentine inn. This is just what Wonderland’s production of La Locandiera delivers, however, in an innovative and highly entertaining evening of revelry – fine wine, great food, and interesting, if unconventional, company.

This particular company is made up of an avowed misogynist, a shameless scrounger, a presumptuous and persistent benefactor – and of course the coquettish Mirandolina, mistress of the inn, played superbly by Claire Jenkins. Connolly Heron, as the initially steel-hearted woman-hater, does the traditionally comic transition from love-hater to love-slave particularly well; and the play proves a raucous and hilarious example of man’s insecurities, woman’s infidelities and love’s indignities.

The Italian restaurant that is the venue for La Locandiera is a fitting venue for this comedy set in 1750s Florence, and the play sits remarkably well within the evening’s programme, with the three acts coinciding with the three courses of the meal. Given that it is first and foremost a theatrical performance, uninspiring food might be forgiven, but there is no need to make excuses for the menu at Restaurant Vittoria; it proves to be good value for money and, happily, decidedly twenty-first century.

The food is, however, one of the only apparently modern factors in the room in which the performance is staged: the cast frequently double as waiters, so that the audience become the guests at Mirandolina’s inn, privy to the same flirtatious behaviour as her onstage customers. The women in the audience, too, will feel privileged to be courted by some of Mirandolina’s many suitors, and anyone who would feel uncomfortable being serenaded by a man with a wig and powdered face should make an effort to avoid eye contact with the performers.

The company, then, manage to transform this small area into what genuinely feels like an eighteenth century tavern, and the acting – comic and lively – cannot be faulted. If there is one flaw in the performance as a whole it is that some of the songs, though enjoyable, are not done justice: either the acoustics of the room are not very forgiving or the actors are just tired by their extremely energetic performances.

It is the experience as a whole that is worth paying for, though.  In the huge programme of shows at the Fringe, La Locandiera – with its well-translated and modernised script, charismatic cast and ingenious staging – is memorable and charming.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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