London Assurance is undoubtedly one of the silliest plays you'll see this season. A revival of Boucicault's 17th century comic romp, it provides a breath of fresh, non-darkly dramatic air in an intriguingly mixed season for the National. Centred around Sir Harcourt Courtly and his son's love affairs, it sees the pair go from the town to the country, fall in love and lust and generally have an utterly silly time. There's even a deliberately unconvincing case of mistaken identity - oh, and a wind-up rat. You couldn't make it up.
Simon Russell-Beale provides much of the humour as the ridiculously pompous Sir Harcourt. His bulk provides a fair few jokes, as does his outrageous attire, while Russell-Beale's balletic movement and constantly rolling eyes land him on just the right side of camp. He is balanced marvellously by a snortingly wonderful Fiona Shaw as Lady Gay Spanker, a rather crazy hunting type who allows Sir Harcourt to pursue her, even though she has no intention of leaving her husband Adolphus (an underused but fun Richard Briers).
Paul Ready as son Charles, who has been lying to his father about his real personality and behaviour for many years, was wonderfully verbose and totally oblivious. He skilfully bounded between Charles' fake persona of nerdy and unsociable to his overly fluffy but naughty reality. It is a pity that he was not better served by love interest Grace, played with a little too much awareness by Michelle Terry. Although Grace is meant to be aware of Charles' yearnings and although there is many a fourth-wall-breaking moment, Terry seemed a little too exasperated, slightly overplaying all her interactions. Thankfully she was offset by Matt Cross' lying, cheating Dazzle, who inveigled his way into the family despite not knowing a soul.
Meanwhile, Nick Sampson was in fine form as servant Cool, whose acidic asides and sneery manner worked well, especially in his scene with lawyer Meddle (Tony Jayawardena), who came off rather weakly, his jokes really not hitting home with the audience, who seemed to prefer the more physical comedy of Russell-Beale and Shaw. This is a charming, hilarious and utterly bonkers play that should be caught if possible.