This transfer from the White Bear in Kennington certainly lives up to its name. It begins with a rush and the pace barely slackens until the closing moments.

At first, the frenetic speed of Simon Evans’ production is exhilarating in David Johnston’s colloquial version of ultra prolific Spanish Golden Age playwright Lope de Vega’s 1590 tale of a young man and a young woman separately on the run – from the authorities, from parents – who feign madness and seek sanctuary in the Valencia asylum.

Kathryn Beaumont’s feisty Erifila has eloped with her father’s servant – only to discover that what he’s really after is her jewels when he leaves her stranded in the streets in her corset.

Lovesick Floriano (William Belchambers, giving the best performance of the evening) has accidentally knifed a prince and, fearing for his life, been persuaded that the only safe place to be is under lock and key.

A convoluted plot of sudden infatuation and faked insanity ensues – with the head warden’s niece and the servant girl both besotted with the new inmate who in turn has fallen for Erifila.

The relentless pace leaves no room for light and shade and the self-consciously clownish antics of keeper Pisano soon wear thin.

The production isn’t without its merits, but ultimately, just trying to keep up with this over-lively comic romp proves exhausting.



Trafalgar Studios (2), Whitehall, SW1A 2DY Charing Cross tube (0844 871 7632) till 6th March £22.50. (Mondays £17.50)