Book Review – London Assurance by Dion Boucicault

First performed, 1841

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A few years back, I fancied I might go into the theatre. I was young. Anyway, at that time, I read a lot of plays, looking for audition pieces. I read a huge amount of Pinter, Chekhov and Orton, and loved them all, but I had never heard of Dion Boucicault. I’m an adult now and have, in fact, read Dion Boucicault. Well done, me.

Life and such, I wasn’t meant to be an actor, but around a year ago, I heard there was a revival of ‘London Assurance’ in 2010, which starred Simon Russell Beale, Mark Addy, Richard Briers and Fiona Shaw.

Almost running a temperature, I got onto the National Theatre, and asked them if there was a DVD available, because I’d missed the live performances by eight years and would have loved to see it.

Long story, but it turns out: if you want to see this version of ‘London Assurance’, you can make a booking with the National Theatre and watch it in their archive, which is in London.

This throws something of a spanner in the works, as I am rarely in London. However, I have an imagination, I can see the cast list on IMDb, and can read the play.

So I did.

The play is great. A farce, which calls to mind ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. So, here’s what happens…

Nineteen year old Grace is engaged to be married to Sir Harcourt Courtly, a very vain man on the softer side of fifty who, once they are married, will support her family financially.

At a party at Grace’s family home, Sir Harcourt’s son, Charles appears in the guise of Augustus Hamilton. His father thinks he recognises him, but Charles convinces Sir Harcourt that he is mistaken. This is because Charles has, within moments of seeing her, fallen in love with Grace.

Lady Gay Spanker (the finest name is all of literature) is a married woman with a fine wit and ready smile. She is also visiting the house with her husband, Adolphus Spanker, also known as Dolly.

Charles manages to convince Lady Gay Spanker to seduce his father and thus, divert the older man’s attention from his fiancee. There’s a lot of confusion and scheming, a great hoot.

If anyone from the National Theatre is reading this, please make the DVD available. My birthday’s coming…

Only £3.99 on Amazon