WILLIAM Congreve's satirical comedy about love, marriage and the pursuit of money is staged in style at the Royal Exchange.

Considering the play was written in 1700, its ideas are still relevant today although its stylised humour is very much of the period.

Despite the characters' verbosity -- never one word when 10 will do -- director Matthew Lloyd keeps the action moving at a smart pace. But sometimes the speed at which some of the actors are speaking makes for less than easy listening.

Sylvia Syms who was to have played Lady Wishfort had to withdraw because of illness and the role is taken by Auriol Smith, who does a splendid job of alternately posturing like a lovesick girl, losing her temper with alacrity and finally forgiving her long-time enemy, Mirabell.

Lloyd Owen is a splendidly gallant Mirabell and is well matched by Emily Morgan as a feisty Mrs Millamant.

But my favourite was the scene stealing Tobias Menzies as the deliciously over-the-top Witwoud.

And James Saxon makes his presence felt as Witwoud's half brother, Sir Wilfull.

Caroline Langrishe (Mrs Marwood) and Catherine Russell (Mrs Fainall) are a believable pair of schemers.

As the servant Foible, Pauline Lockhard shows a perceptive understanding of the comedy as does Simon Lenegan as Waitwell.

Costumes are sumptuous although some of the furniture seemed oddly tattered and torn. Doreen