Lakeside Arts Centre: The Compleat Female Stage Beauty

The Lakeside Arts Centre showcased The Compleat Female Stage Beauty this week.

The Compleat Female Stage Beauty has sell out audiences everywhere. It is a true story of the destructive and fickle nature of the limelight: audiences flock in their moralistic support of feminine equality.

Francois Pandolfo as Ned Kynaston

Acting as our narrator, the diarist Samuel Pepys guides us through the true story of Ned Kynaston (Francois Pandolfo), a Restoration actor famed for his roles as women in an era when female actors were forbidden. The play follows his tragic downfall as ladies take to the stage, introducing the audience to a cast of historical figures.

Witty comments serve to humanise distant historical figures such as Pepys, who is memorably described as being such an avid note-taker that, ‘if two mice were f***ing in a nutshell, he’d find room to squeeze in and write it down’.

Jokes come thick and fast in this bawdy play which swings wildly between historical and contemporary social references. Charles II jests that restoration priests believe male cross-dressing causes ‘femininity and sodomy’, adding with a wry aside to the audience ‘well they should know’.

‘Monty Python-esque outlandishness’

The plot also contorts the emotions of the audience, as they plunge from Monty Python-esque outlandishness to sombre tragedy as a poverty stricken Ned is forced to perform in seedy back-alley shows for lecherous spectators.

Act 1 sparkles with gloriously bitchy exchanges and many comedic moments as women take to the British stage. The female cast march triumphantly after claiming their sexual equality in the theatre.

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The audience feels guilty for ‘selling out their feminist morals’

However from this moment on, the audience feels guilty for selling out their feminist morals. They feel no victory but instead a strong sympathy for displaced male actors such as Ned, who in this scene painfully drags himself to lie crumpled amongst the victorious women.

A comedic tragedy, The Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a raunchy Restoration romp that’ll acquaint you with many witty historical figures but also leave you questioning the consequences of equality and the expense at which it’s achieved.