The Miser, at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
The pantomime season may be over, but a flavour of it lingers on in Hamish Glen's lively production of Moliere's 1668 classic.
It is chiefly embodied in a remarkably broad comic performance by Andy Gray, a renowned exponent of pantomime in his native Scotland. And the Belgrade's own resident dame, Andy Hockley, has not been packed away with the Christmas decorations but contributes a cameo appearance to each act, as a financier and a magistrate respectively.
This new version by David Johnston transplants the story of the skinflint Harpingon and his desperate, love-struck children to the English Midlands, including a panto-like reference to Solihull. But Glen, who directed The Hypochondriac here four years ago, does not flinch from a self-imposed racial stereotype in giving meanness a Scottish accent.
The Miser dates from the early days of the modern financial system and in his freewheeling treatment of the text, incorporating puns like "he's cheapskating on thin ice with me" and "the joy of sacks", Johnston naturally cannot resist a few jokes glancing forward to some of its recent triumphs.
But more timeless themes, like the self-deluding vanity of the aged and grotesque Harpingon in attempting to marry a young woman, provide the chief comic material.
Above all it's the largeness of Gray's performance, whether raging over the loss of his money or simpering over his prospective bride, that dominates the show. But there are numerous other pleasures including designer Libby Watson's atmospheric evocation of a once elegant but now dusty and dilapidated house, the haplessness of the children and servants who inhabit it, and Lin Blakley's cracking performance as the clear-sighted, scheming Margarita.
Running time: Two hours, 30 minutes. Until February 13.