Mark Ravenhill’s latest new work brings Voltaire’s Candide back to life cryogenically.
His “monstrous farce” is a response to the French philosopher’s satirical novel, published in 1759, as an attack on Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s “everything is for the best” theory of optimism, following the Lisbon Earthquake, which killed 30,000.
The theatre’s writer-in-residence cleverly questions the sunny optimism of today’s social media obsessed world.
In the opening scene we learn about the young philosopher’s story when an ageing but amorous Countess attempts to cheer him up with a play-within-a-play dramatising his life from a personal diary.
Amusingly, he confuses real-life with drama and tries to kiss the actress playing his long lost love, Cunegonde.
In contrast, Scene Two – staged entirely in black – is set in contemporary England at the birthday party of 18-year-old Sophie – a calm, chilling Sarah Ridgeway – who shoots her boyfriend and family to save the planet.
A tightly-constructed witty piece of writing imaginatively brought to life in one hour 40 minutes by director Lyndsey Turner, designer Soutra Gilmour and a fantastic cast.
Matthew Needham’s quizzical Candide is engaging throughout, as is the excellent Coventry actress Katy Stephens as distraught mother Sarah and Ian Redford as Candide’s professor and mentor, Pangloss.
- Candide runs at The Swan Theatre at the RSC until October 26. www.rsc.org.uk .