House of Desires RSC at the Playhouse Theatre

5
Magic and mayhem from the Golden Age.
By Gene - 2nd Feb 2005
Transferring from Stratford, the RSC Spanish Golden Age Season opened at London’s Playhouse theatre with the 17th century classic House of Desires (Los empenos de una casa – literally: The Trials of a Nobel House) It is in these ‘trails’ and tribulations that the world of Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz set her characters in a farcical time bomb; ready to explode and reveal all at any moment. Mistaken identities, love lost, love found with a more than ample peppering of parody of a social and privileged home; the characters exist for their own desires and passions.

De La Cruz, herself a nun, reflects and comments on a world where mad passion and honour lay at the core of their existence. She paints a canvas of crazy inflection driven by selfish and illogical bombast. The structure and style of the play is a true reflection of the writer’s ability to acknowledge current form; using classical Greek back-story telling with boiling point farce; audience interaction and the odd mockery of herself and the world in which they live. Underscore all this with a feeling of localised Pantomime and you get House of Desires for the 21st Century.

The new translation by Catherine Boyle is witty and sparkling. No verbal gag is lacking in its placement and appropriateness. This new translation under the direction of Nancy Meckler sears along with ever increasing speed and ferocity. The cast were very clearly having a blast with this production and that enthusiasm and love for the play poured over the footlights onto a hungry and very appreciative audience. There are too many wonderful moments to comment on here, but one image that will sit with me for a very long time is that of Castano (Simon Trinder) who, as the servant of Don Carlos (the amazing, mad and versatile Joseph Millson) went into a pantomimic strip and dress routine as he attempted to fashion himself off as Dona Leonor (the beautiful and passionate Rebecca Johnson). With quick-fire wit and an absolute understanding of audience interplay – he asked: ‘is anyone timing this?’ Hopefully not, and we did not care; he could have gone on all night.

This superb ensemble production opens the Golden Age Season with energy, style, wit and a very large tongue in a very large cheek. There are no dusty mothballs hanging around this 17th play at all. When one goes to see a new translation of a classic there is that nagging doubt that the museum theatre could be at work and you will sit for two hours watching very clever, but very dull dusty plays. With the RSC’s House of Desires you are in for a treat with electrically paced farce that is as entertaining and fulsome as any modern writer: such as Mr Orton or Mr Foe. Structurally the play is a minefield of intrigue, duping and near death exchanges. But you always seem to know that the man, or men, will get the girl in the end.

Really, what more can I say? A wonderful night out at the theatre and a great start to, what I am sure will be another successful season born out of the ensemble that is the RSC.

Gene David Kirk


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