Aphra Behn lived a tumultuous life. She was a poet, translator, novelist, playwright, and, briefly, a spy. She was a feminist who embraced a rock and roll lifestyle. This certainly spills out into her play, The Rover. Loveday Ingram’s production takes this on, and pushes. The result is a riotous, sexual, and explosive comedy.
Three sisters, determined to escape the constraints of their restrictive elder brother, dress up as gypsies to enjoy, disguised, the carnival. They meet three cavaliers, intent on finding pleasure in the hot weather and hot atmosphere.
The carnival setting was vivid and dynamic, making the music and dance central elements to the performance. Minute moments existed in which you could just notice the glaring eyes of the ensemble watching knowingly on the secret meetings of lovers, with credit to Tim Lutkin’s lighting design due.
Joseph Millson was the Rover: his swaggering self-confidence fuelled his desire to have a good time with as many women as possible. Each time he walked on to the stage, a strong energy accompanied him, leaving him to garner laugh after laugh. His humorous plaudits were mostly shared with Leander Deeny as Blunt, who’s unexpected sexual conquests fall foul as he is scammed.
Alexandra Gilbreath’s Angellica Bianca is an emotional and thoughtful courtesan, who tries to lay claim to the Rover. Along with Hellena, played by Faye Castelow, Angellica Bianca had the role of channelling the 17th Century debates on consent, which the two actresses did very well, providing weight and substance to these important points.
A very strong ensemble cast with some very Loveday Ingram takes on all of the best features of Aphra Behn, and combines them with this masterful play to show really that despite all of the colour and innuendo, there was – and still are – large issues of consent and equality, but that women can succeed.