An anarchic restoration comedy rich with seduction, intrigue and danger, Belvoir Theatre presents Aphra Behn’s The Rover for a limited season from 5 July 2017.
Lost in a maze of masquerade and revelry, a ratbaggy gang of exiled cavaliers plunge into the steamy depths of Spanish occupied Naples at carnival-time. They fall into the usual traps of thwarted love and mistaken identity while causing merry havoc across the town.
They are led in their debauchery by Willmore, the eponymous Rover, who was thought to be inspired by the infamous John Wilmot, a notorious playboy of the seventeenth century. He’s beyond rakish, but appears to have met his match in the beguiling and witty Hellena. Shame she’s a nun. Meanwhile Angelica Bianca, the most glorious courtesan in Europe, has fallen hard for Willmore and is set on revenge for his romantic betrayal.
Aphra Behn is widely considered the first woman to make a successful career from playwriting. When The Rover premiered in 1677, it was an absolute sensation. Audiences knew only too well who Willmore mirrored, and the King’s mistress, Elizabeth Barry, played Hellena. The play fell out of favour for a few centuries, considered a little too coarse for polite society, but was rediscovered in the 1980s and is now considered one of the great ‘battle of the sexes’ comedies.
Eamon Flack has proven his mettle on many a Shakespearean comedy (Twelfth Night or What You Will, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), here he turns to Shakespeare’s contemporary with his trademark joie de vivre and a cast that is an embarrassment of riches.
“I want to do something wild and high-energy,” says Flack. “And this is a sexy, dangerous play. Its honesty about the battle between men and women for power is striking given it is over three and a half centuries old.”
Schmitz returns to the Belvoir stage after several years absent working on the TV series Black Sails, he’ll bring his pirate swagger to this swashbuckling romp. His band of merry conspirators includes Gareth Davies (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, As You Like It), Andre de Vanny (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, ABC1), Leon Ford (Old Man), and Nathan Lovejoy (Hamlet).
Ferguson made her mark with her Belvoir debut in 2013’s Miss Julie and we’re thrilled to have her back for The Rover and Ghosts in September. Shiels returns after delighting us in Twelfth Night or What You Will while Elizabeth Nabben (Othello, Bell Shakespeare) and Megan Wilding make their Belvoir debuts. Kiruna Stamell returns to Australia after making her name on screen and stage in the UK in hit shows like Life’s Too Short and East Enders.
Director: Eamon Flack Featuring: Gareth Davies, Andre de Vanny, Taylor Ferguson, Leon Ford, Nathan Lovejoy, Elizabeth Nabben, Toby Schmitz, Nikki Shiels, Kiruna Stamell, Megan Wilding Set & Costume Designer: Mel Page Lighting Designer: Matt Scott Composer & Sound Designer: Steve Toulmin Dramaturg: Charlotte Bradley Movement Director: Scott Witt Associate Designer: Chloe Greaves
Belvoir Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills
Season: 5 July – 6 August 2017 (preview: 4 July)
Information and Bookings: www.belvoir.com.au
Image: Toby Schmitz and Nikki Shiels feature in The Rover – photo by Daniel Boud