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Review: The Wily Widow, at Hen & Chickens Theatre

01 December, 2017 — By Sabrina Dougall

BREXIT can’t help but hover at the edges of an Italian drama built on power play, sexual politics and money.

Set around the turn of the millennium in a Venetian palace that has seen better days, The Wiley Widow is a humorous take on the dynamics of lust and lucre in a European country on the brink of economic transformation.

Inspired by The Artful Widow (La Vedova Scaltra) di Carlo Goldoni, the play is a collaboration between writers Silvia Di Marco and Stefania Montesolaro (who also plays leading lady Ilaria Guerini, a recently widowed Venetian with a taste for financially irresponsible men) that remodels feminist values for the 21st-century economic climate.

A particularly effective strategy of the piece is the way dialogue, costume and staging play with the borders of truth and deception; everyone in the play is pretending to be someone they are not, except for the wise and decrepit housekeeper, Theresa, whose sage suspicions often go unheeded.

The sometimes vapid stage presence of Illaria contrasts usefully with the farcical (at times, hammy – though always amusing) performances of Roderick O’Grady (Alfonse de Tocqueville) and Tim Heath (Frederick Tannenbaum), men on the make who sojourn at Illaria’s guest house and cook up schemes to trick the femme fatale out of her wealth.

The strength of The Wiley Widow is its thematic consistency, often referring to gambling, cards and poker as emblems of risky game playing – an urgent necessity in a world of monetary uncertainty.

020 7704 2001


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