Synopsis | The Rover | Royal Shakespeare Company

The Cavaliers in The Rover, which is called
‘The Rover, or The Banish’d Cavaliers’, are Belvile, Frederick, and Willmore, who is the
Rover. They are loyal to Charles II, who has been told to bugger off from England in fear
of his life, and Oliver Cromwell is ruling puritan England. It’s incredibly boring, and
these men have gone away. Willmore, The Rover, is essentially Charles’ bodyguard. He has no money any more,
even though he must have formerly owned a lot of land in England, and he is just a great
fighter and a great naval officer and he is looking after the King abroad. They’ve headed
to a hot foreign port at carnival time, some in search of love – Belvile – and the others
in search of a good time. Angelica! When they get there the most famous, most beautiful courtesan
in existence happens to suddenly be available. She’s had one customer for years, and suddenly
he’s died and she’s available – at carnival time, the hottest whore in the world is available.
So that’s unbelievable good luck for Willmore. Although he can’t afford her. That’s his first
problem. Let’s face it, he wants to get laid. That’s that world, who arrive ashore as the
foreigners – the people who live there, are a brilliant family of sisters. There’s Hellena
– she’s already in a nunnery, she’s supposed to absolutely be marrying Christ any minute,
but it’s carnival time, there’s Florinda, who is supposed to be marrying someone her
father wanted her to marry, and then her brother wants her to marry someone else, and it’s
a patriarchal world where they have to do what they’re told, but it’s carnival time,
and those sisters get in disguise, and having never done anything like it before they go
to the carnival. Florinda wants Belvile – they’ve met before, they’re in love, they want to
marry – Romeo and Juliet there – but they’re not allowed. Hellena just wants to have one
great night, and have passion with a man before she becomes a nun – or, if she’s ever going
to become a nun. It’s beautiful at the start of the play, you’ve got such different worlds:
these very masculine, English, ‘Brits abroad’, and then these very wealthy but stifled women
who want to explode into life. And the carnival is all around, you can feel the carnival coming
getting louder and louder and literally coming down the street towards them. And everyone
meets at the carnival. Some people get what they want, some people don’t get what they
want, and I think it’s very surprising which is which. You definitely leave the theatre
on a high, but what’s great about this play is that it’s not unrealistic: there are people
who finish with egg and custard on their face.

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