Review: Educating Agnes, St Serf's Church Hall

Educating Agnes, ***St Serf's Church Hall

THERE are laughs aplenty up at St Serf's, where Leitheatre is staging Liz Lochhead's delicious updating of Moliere's classic comedy School for Wives into modern Scots.

Much of the fun of the adaptation is hearing Scots idioms from the mouths of Moliere's 17th century characters as they negotiate their way through his convoluted comic plot. And in this, director Michael Paton ensures the company does a fine job.

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Don Arnott is solid in the key role of Arnolphe, a rich merchant who has brought up orphan Agnes as her guardian, so he can keep her innocent of the ways of the world, marry her when she comes of age and thus possess a wife who will not cuckold him with a younger man - as all his friends' wives do their husbands.

Just as the knot it about to be tied, Agnes - given vivacious assurance by a swift-tonged Rosalind Becroft - bumps into young Horace, son of Arnolphe's

good friend Orante. Their love is instantaneous and Horace, new in town and begging favours of Arnolphe, confesses the affair to his benefactor - little knowing that Arnolphe is Agnes' hated guardian.

There is plenty of joy in hearing Lochhead's modern Scottish vernacular fall quickly from the characters' lips, the rhythm of the idioms driving the rhyme of the lines so that it all flows naturally.

In this aspect, Paton's success with his cast is less universal.

Some have an innate understanding of the script's demands. Becroft is exemplary as Agnes, pouring out her lines with quick-fire clarity.

John Macaskill and Fiona Robertson also give strong service to the text as Arnolphe's bumbling servants, while Tom Wallace's gauche Horace is well-observed. The overall result is a sure-footed and entertaining performance which never falters, but which has had to sacrifice a level of comedy to keep the length manageable.

• Run ends Saturday, 21 August