Review: 'The Rover' at the RSC | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: ‘The Rover’ at the RSC

Rhianna Hartshorne reviews the RSC's bawdy and beautiful production of Aphra Behn's mischievous play 'The Rover', bringing the work of a much underrated playwright to the stage

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Aphra Behn’s, ‘The Rover,’ directed by Loveday Ingram, is a wild and mischievous spectacle; complete with marvellous flamenco music, strong witty women and hilariously bawdy men – all in all, a lot of fun. Ingram’s intent was to revive the work of Aphra Behn who, in her words, had been, ‘pushed aside by later generations; her feminism and libertine behaviour too ahead of its time,’ and it is safe to say, she has achieved her goal. Once inside Stratford’s time-honoured Swan Theatre, the audience is immediately transported into the electric and energised atmosphere of the carnival, enhanced by the live musicians: Adam Cross (saxophone), Nick Lee (guitar) and Andrew Stone-Fewings (trumpet), accompanied by flamboyant flamenco dancing, sultry singing and alluring costume: feathers, velvet, masks - you name it!

Joseph Millson’s portrayal of Willmore ‘The Rover’ is a restoration Russell Brand that is the driving force of this production

Ingram presents Behn’s England, when the fashionable accessories for a man were his sword and his whore, encapsulated in the character of Willmore. And it is Joseph Millson’s portrayal of Willmore ‘The Rover’ himself, a restoration Russell Brand that is the driving force of this production, whose insatiable sexual appetite sees him attempting to bed women left right and centre, whilst he is already promised to the lovely and lively Hellena (Faye Castelow). He is the libertine everyone loves to hate - to him, love is a game that he is excellent at playing, much to the audience’s comedic delight. Indeed, the scene in which he, Don Pedro (Gyrui Sarossy) and Don Antonio (Jamie Wilkes) all attempt to woo the elusive and adored Angelica Bianca (Alexandra Gilbreath) has all the audience clapping with encouragement – such a hoot!

The choreography of the carnival scene is a joy for the eyes and the ears

The introduction of Hellena, Florinda (Frances McNamee) and Valeria (Emma Noakes) gives the play its feisty edge, as all three women endeavour to find love before they are either married off for money or sent to a nunnery. Their disguises as gypsies facilitate such a venture and they attend the festivities in search of partners. The choreography of the carnival scene is a joy for the eyes and the ears, complete with flashes of vibrant colour and slinky saxophone sounds-so captivating and full of life, it makes you want to get up and join in.

Lighting and staging plays a huge part in aiding the comedy of the production. The black out and use of the trap door, during the scene in which the wealthy Englishmen Blunt (Leander Deeny) is duped by the alluring wench Lucetta (Kellie Shirley), is a masterclass in absurd, surreal and suggestive slapstick – (Morecombe and Wise…esque’?!) - you can’t help but laugh.

a true joy to behold

I must say, it is very hard not to enjoy this play, especially given the suggestive dialogue of every scene and the playful portrayal of love. But what makes it a true joy to behold is how the play, and Aphra Behn (a woman!), were both remarkably ahead of their time, attempting to overturn the norm. Anyone in need of a good giggle to shake off the January blues couldn’t go far wrong with this fiesta of drama.

Article by Rhianna Hartshorne


11th January 2017 at 11:48 am

Last Updated

11th January 2017 at 1:00 pm

Images from

Paul Downey