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There's much here to be optimistic about.


REVIEW Candide THE SWAN THEATRE, RSC, STRATFORD-UPON-AVON IN Mark Ravenhill's latest new work at the RSC, a teenage girl live streams a family tragedy on her mobile as she attempts to save the planet and Voltaire's Candide comes back to life cryogenically.

The theatre's famous writer-in-residence uses the philosophical novel, published in 1759, as a springboard to question the sunny optimism of today's social media obsessed society.

And he goes on to ask what the world would be like if geneticists could programme all with an "optimism gene" at birth? In the opening scene of Ravenhill's Candide, we learn about the young philosopher's story in clever tableaux form when an ageing but amorous Countess hoping to cheer him up has arranged for his life to be dramatized.

Brought upon a philosophy of optimism by his professor and mentor Dr Pangloss, Candide travelled across Europe and South America facing natural disasters and misfortunes. He is now older and wiser but naively does not understand the purpose of drama and attempts to kiss the actress, who is playing his real life lost love, Cunegonde. He shouts angrily at the playwright: "You have stolen my life to torture me." Candide decides to change his story and go in search of Cunegonde.

During the course of the play we travel through parallel worlds in different time zones and the characters eventually collide. Each scene is linked by the running theme of optimism.

Candide's search for Cunegonde takes him to El Dorado, a utopian society where no-one is ever sad, greed or jealous. Its inhabitants are permanently optimistic. Candide finds he cannot live in such a world and exits on a flying sheep, comically powered by balloons and flatulence.

He ends up cryogenically frozen in the futuristic Pangloss Institute - where geneticists have isolated the "optimism gene" and can make sure it is present in every child. But will they succeed? An ingenious, thought-provoking musical play which director Lyndsey Turner, designer Soutra Gilmour and a fantastic cast bring to life a cleverly constructed piece of writing. Matthew Needham's quizzical Candide is engaging throughout. The play runs until October 26.



Ishia Bennison as Countess. Right, Katy Stephens as Sarah and Matthew Needham as Candide.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 9, 2013
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