She needs a second husband who'll make her a "woman of quality," and Sir John Roverhead (Tam Williams) is the suitor she's got her eye on; but he's secretly leading a number of wealthy women on, including Mrs Rich's own niece Lucinda (Aretha Ayeh.)
Meanwhile Lady Landsworth (Daisy Badger) has both money and a title, but she also has a romantic ideal no potential husband is likely to live up to. Charles Clerimont (Solomon Israel,) recently left penniless, seems like he might fit the bill, so Lady Landsworth and her sidekick Betty (Laura Elsworthy) come up with a racy plan to test him: She'll flirt with him in disguise, letting him assume she's a prostitute, and see if his morality is enough to keep him from temptation.
Davies' production, which adds new songs by Grant Olding to Pix's play, is suitably lacking in reverence from the start, Stanton giving a real glint of mischief to her character's social pretension and ridiculousness. In a company like the RSC that uses an ensemble casting model, you can see how a play like this is a gift, giving most of its cast at least one scene in which to shine - which they do, even against the scene-stealing pair of dogs that Charles' bull-in-a-china-shop elder brother (Leo Wringer) takes everywhere with him.
I love that lurchers are now the RSC's official dog of choice
Some of the notable supporting performances come from Will Brown and Sadie Shimmin as Charles' footman and landlady, the former regularly getting the latter drunk to make her help with his schemes, Amanda Hadingue as Elder Clerimont's brusque squire, and Sandy Foster and Susan Salmon as a couple of society women scamming Mrs Rich at cards. Colin Richmond's costumes are pleasingly OTT, and his set backdrops with the location names spray painted on them suggest the air of irreverence the production has. Most of all, it's nice to see a Restoration comedy that can actually deliver plenty of laughs again.
The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, or, The Beau Defeated by Mary Pix is booking in repertory until the 14th of June at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes including interval.
Photo credit: Helen Maybanks.