If you are going to go Russian and go for the laughs, go Gogol. Which is exactly what this group of comedians have done with Marriage, his 1842 satire of manners. This is the one that plays on society’s pomposities by racking up a gallery of aspirational bourgeois types playing the nuptials game, with Ditto’s version lacing the situational comedy with left-field one-liners and portrayals to die for.
Set in Victorian times, it has been decided that dippy Agafya needs a husband, eagerly catered for by a scraggy matchmaker, while her disapproving aunt has a nice greengrocer by the name of Sainsbury in mind instead. Cue an oddball line of suitors jostling to tie Agafya’s knot – a pompous auditor, a lecherous ex-militaryman and a most boring man of means.
Hoping to pip them to the post is a dippy taxman aided and abetted in the winning of Agafya’s heart by his best mate, secretly desperate to land his single mate into marital lock-down like him, as all the while a manservant/maidservant hovers over them all with bemusement.
Headed by Celeste Dring and Ben Clark as the hapless Agafya and her beau, this is as near perfect casting and as generous an ensemble as you will ever see – each putting in inspired performances that are as dramatic as they are comic, all riding on Tom Parry’s flawless script. Director Russell Bolam harnesses it all with a disciplined beat throughout, while leaving the cast oodles of space to ham it up. Flesh it out a bit more, keep the rest as it is, and this is eminently West End-able.