La Casa Nova (Contemporary Cast – 2024)

Arts University Bournemouth [AUB] Palace Court Theatre, Bournemouth JJ 17 May 2024


AUB came up with the interesting idea of performing this 18th-century Italian play by Carl Goldini as a period piece and then as a contemporary piece. I had seen a review of the period piece and was looking forward to seeing the contemporary take on this play.

I had assumed that the same cast would be performing each version in rep theatre fashion. However, it was clear from the period piece review that, although there is a cast crossover, a number of the performers in this modern version did not appear in the period version.

Anzoletto (Lewis Feest), had enjoyed a fine lifestyle on the back of his late father’s and rich uncle’s money. However, he was finding that, having fallen out with his uncle, maintaining this lifestyle without the backing of those funds and appeasing his demanding new wife Cecilia (Megan Barnwell) was proving to be challenging. Throw in a stroppy sister Domenica (Emily Tamar) who was at loggerheads with Cecilia, and a pair of interfering neighbours in the upstairs apartment, Checca (Scarlett Morris) and her sister Rosina (Jada Bodden) and all sorts of chaos ensues!

The scene was set in Anzoletto’s extravagant newly leased apartment, being refurbished by three decorators Oswaldo (Jake O’Mahoney) Onifrio (Teddy Sterry) and Luaro (Avery Kirin). These three worked very well together, ably and enjoyably led by Jake as Oswaldo. Teddy and Avery took on different parts in Act 2. Avery provided a nice turn as Prosdocimo, but, unfortunately, I barely understood a word Teddy said as Toni!

The backdrop was magnificent and really created the feel of an exclusive and expensive apartment. I loved the central revolve and the rotating panels for the very well-handled and slick scene changes between two apartments. Nicely done!

Anzoletto should have been the commensurate blagger, balancing the demands of his creditors and his wife always on a knife edge. Lewis didn’t convey the arrogant frenetic controlled panic required and so lacked the stage presence needed for this key role.

I enjoyed the prissy posh demanding portrayal of Cecila by Megan and particularly appreciated the character transformation in her speeches with Cristofolo (Solo Candy) in Act 2. Emily was a great foil to Cecilia as Domenica and worked well with Cecilia though I didn’t detect any chemistry between her and Lorenzino (Henry Tan), which made their relationship less believable.

I‘m curious as to why most of the cast needed to adopt a non-specific Northern accent. It didn’t seem necessary and wasn’t consistent. Indeed, it made the tight rich self-made Uncle Cristofol seem quite stereotypical. Solo did not look old enough to be Anzoletto’s uncle.  Not only was this a make-up issue, but physically he just did not act like a much older person, with ineffective use of a walking stick. On the other hand, the bizarre and annoyingly affected physicality of Robert Elson’s Fabrizio seemed out of place in this contemporary setting.

Lily Barbara was well cast as Lucietta, a lovely part which she performed proficiently though sometimes speed of delivery compromised clarity and projection. The sisters Checca and Rosina, cast as Americans, worked well together, though Rosina’s volume dropped at times. Checca’s character grew on me as the play went on.

It was a proper ensemble piece and I would not normally feel obliged to refer to each character. However, as I have specifically mentioned most characters I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention the others! Henry Tran was suitably energetic and inconsolable as Lorenzino though, as stated, lacked chemistry with Domenica. It was a nice turn by Jamie Mclaughlin as Ottavio, a fun and amusing role he clearly enjoyed.

Overall, it was an enjoyable evening well performed and I’m sorry I won’t be able to see the period version before it closes Saturday evening.