The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
London Assurance

She lived fourteen months with me, then eloped with my best friend and I miss him! — Sir Harcourt Courtly about his wife
London Assurance
Michelle Terry as Grace Harkaway and Simon Russell Beale as Sir Harcourt Courtly (Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
Although Dion Boucicault's play London Assurance was written in 1841 its theme harks back to the ridiculous and romantic Regency comedies of Richard Sheridan and Oliver Goldsmith. All the big guns are out for this production in the National Theatre's largest space The Olivier: Nicholas Hytner directs, the superbly elegant and comic Simon Russell Beale stars as the man of fashion Sir Harcourt Courtly and Fiona Shaw cuts a swagger as the object of Sir Harcourt's intended dalliance, huntswoman, Lady Gay Spanker.

Can there be anything more delightful that Simon Russell Beale tapping his very round girth and telling us he has to be careful what he eats for breakfast so as to maintain his slim waist or his balletic twirling on the dance floor to show off a well turned calf? This superbly judged performance is so very skilled that Russell Beale can be charmingly comic without descending into raucous pantomime. He twinkles with amusement, obviously really enjoying the part, so it's impossible to dislike the vain, conceited, twit that is Sir Harcourt. In fact the stage seems curiously empty when he is not in a scene. Russell Beale acts with his expressive eyes and has impeccable timing. I think I prefer his comic performances to his more serious ones.

The scene is beautifully set by Nick Sampson's valet the aptly named Cool who is both haughty and deferential when called for without losing any of his dignity. I was less impressed by Matt Cross's opportunist Richard Dazzle who wouldn't have fooled me for one minute as his working class accent belies his claimed lineage and would not have gained him admission to the best houses.

Mark Thompson's eye catching designs are state of the art as the black and white classically decorated Courtly town house is contrasted with Squire Harkaway's (Mark Addy) impressive beamed country manor with its smoking chimney, leaded lights and multiple hunting trophy heads arrayed on the walls.

Grace Harkaway (Michelle Terry) is the 18 year old country niece Sir Harcourt intends to marry and she seems oddly resigned to her fate as an aging man's young wife, that is until she meets her intended future stepson, Charles Courtly (Paul Ready) who is conveniently pretending to be someone else and fooling his own father as to his identity. At the other end of the age spectrum is Richard Briers as Mr Adolphus Spanker, Lady Gay's elderly husband who bristles with vibrating indignation whenever things French are alluded to until Lady Gay can soothe him. We hear about this old gentleman's splendid military victory at the battle of Copenhagen which of course places this play some forty years after 1807.

The play's title alludes to the fashionable superiority assumed by townsfolk over their country cousins. Country gent, Squire Mark Harkaway questions these assumptions when he asks, "Does a waspish waist indicate a good heart?" There are plenty of good quips: attorney Mark Meddle (Tony Jawardena) tells us that "Nine out of ten lawyers give the others a bad name!". . . Lady Gay's courting advice, "like horse riding — keep your seat."

London Assurance is a thoroughly good evening in the theatre with the audience bursting into spontaneous applause for Sir Harcourt's bon mots and stylish poses.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
London Assurance
Written by Dion Boucicault
Directed by Nicholas Hytner

Starring: Simon Russell Beale, Fiona Shaw, Mark Addy, Michelle Terry, Richard Briers, Paul Ready
With: Matt Cross, Fiona Drummond, Mark Extance, Richard Frame, Junix Inocian, Tony Jayawardena, Simon Markey, Laura Matthews, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Nick Sampson, Maggie Service, David Whitworth
Design: Mark Thompson
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Sound: John Leonard
Music: Rachel Portman
Choreographer: Scarlett Mackmin
Running time: Two hours 40 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
Booking to 2nd June 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 11th March 2010 performance at the Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX (Rail/Tube:Waterloo)

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of London Assurance
  • I disagree with the review of London Assurance
  • The review made me eager to see London Assurance
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2010, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from