This is a feel-good production of a difficult play. The very best thing about it is Dominic Rowan’s exceptionally charismatic Duke. In the second half, particularly, the underlying comic approach to the play allows Rowan to have a great deal of fun, and the final scenes, which can be excruciatingly painful to endure (because in some productions, essentially, the Duke is emotionally torturing Isabella in those scenes) are light and engaging.
The Orange Tree theatre has established a unique niche for itself as a home for new writing and carefully chosen revivals of long-neglected repertoire. This production is a distinguished badge added to that reputation and another notable success for director Paul Miller and his creative team in their award-winning first season.
Breen squeezes every bit of comedic possibility from the play. The repertory company, so good in the dramatic and enthralling Oppenheimer, prove to be equally skilled in the bawdy comedy department. There are sly asides, vicious insults, dirty double entendres, rowdy gags, silly accent routines, fart jokes, catch-phrase jollity, physical comedy, costume comedy, sight gags, clowning – you name it, it can be found in Breen’s lucid, fast-moving and hugely enjoyable production.