Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 3rd April, 2019
On the occasion of their 75th birthday, twin sisters Nora and Dora Chance receive an invitation to the 100th birthday party of their strange and estranged father, Melchior Hazard, a feted actor of the old school. As the twins get ready, they recount the story of their family. It’s a tale of the theatre, of absentee fathers, of choosing a family…
With this adaptation of the Angela Carter novel, Emma Rice makes a welcome return to form and to the stage, appearing as Nora Chance alongside Gareth Snook’s Dora. The pair are well-suited, and so are the other pairs of actors who portray the twins at earlier points in their lives and dancing careers. Members of the beret-sporting chorus step forward and assume the roles of Melchior and his twin Peregrine, and the action flows fluidly through the stages of the story. Fluidity is key, here; gender fluidity and colour fluidity in the casting, which adds to the theatricality of the telling and detracts nothing from the spellbinding charm of the enterprise.
Paul Hunter (the older Melchior) is a hoot as end-of-the-pier comic, Gorgeous George; the show has a definite whiff of seaside postcard and music hall vulgarity – which makes it all the more glorious. Long-time Rice collaborator, Mike Shepherd (the older Peregrine) also features as a deadpan stagehand, but it’s Katy Owen’s Grandma Chance, waddling about in a body suit who garners the most laughs from the more outre material.
Melissa James and Omari Douglas portray the twins at the height of their careers, getting to know the ways of the world and men. The dancing is lively and also elegant throughout, thanks to Etta Murfitt’s choreography, and the music, supplied by an onstage trio (augmented by cast members) is sublime, with Ian Ross’s original compositions nestled side-by-side with classics like “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” and “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby”.
Mirabelle Gremaud and Bettrys Jones bring juvenile energy to the twins as young girls, and Patrycja Kujawska is a dignified presence as the Lady Atalanta. I also enjoy Sam Archer’s Young Peregrine and Ankur Bahl’s posturing Young Melchior.
The whole production has Emma Rice stamped all over it. This is a Kneehigh show in everything but name. The fun, the storytelling, the music, the puppetry, the romanticism, the wisdom… It’s all here to be savoured.
A magical, captivating piece that tickles the ribs and touches the heart. It’s a wise critic who knows something special when he sees it.
Doublet-trouble: Melissa James and Omari Douglas. (Photo: Steve Tanner)
Leave a comment | tags: Angela Carter, Ankur Bahl, Bettrys Jones, Emma Rice, Etta Murfitt, Gareth Snook, Katy Owen, Kneehigh, Melissa James, Mike Shepherd, Mirabelle Gremaud, Omari Doughlas, Patrycja Kujawska, Paul Hunter, Sam Archer, Wise Children | posted in Review, Theatre Review
The Swan, Stratford upon Avon, Wednesday 22nd July, 2015
Trevor Nunn’s new production of Ben Jonson’s 1606 comedy is contemporary in setting and feel. It is our world of smart phones and tablets, of ECG machines and CCTV. The text too has been tweaked to include present-day references to the Grecian economy, for example, bringing the satire up-to-date. The point is to remind us that human nature has not changed. The flaws and foibles Jonson satirises remain all too current.
Volpone is a con artist, fleecing avaricious types who seek to inherit his fortune. You can almost see the pound signs in their eyes as they flock to what they think is his death bed. In the title role, Henry Goodman is magnificent, smooth and slick; his Volpone has an innate sense of fun. He is a conman we can admire – part of the enduring appeal of stories about confidence tricksters is our enjoyment of the cleverness of the scam, being in on it with the tacit acknowledgment that we, the audience, would never be duped… And, of course, the victims deserve what they get; they are terrible people.
The excellent Matthew Kelly is Corvino, a jealous, abusive tyrant of a husband, who turns out to be willing to whore out his wife if it means he will be named Volpone’s heir. Geoffrey Freshwater is in good form as the doddering Corbaccio, willing to disinherit his own son in order to secure Volpone’s riches. We enjoy seeing these men stitched up, due to Goodman’s splendidly timed asides and hilarious fakery. A baldie wig and no small amount of drooling work wonders. True, Volpone too is motivated by avarice but his victims are taking advantage of what they presume is a feeble invalid at death’s door. Where Volpone oversteps the bounds of what is acceptable is when he attempts to force himself on Corvino’s comely Mrs, Celia (Rhiannon Handy). This is why Volpone has to be punished at the end.
Goodman is a thoroughly charming silver fox and each disguise he assumes is audaciously funny, for example the Italian mountebank who mangles the English language into something that sounds ruder than it is. Volpone is aided and abetted by his able sidekick, Mosca (the elegantly expressive Orion Lee) – a bit like Clouseau’s Cato but without the impromptu karate attacks.
Annette McLaughlin is funny as the grotesque Lady Politic Would-Be, here portrayed as a self-obsessed reality TV diva, complete with cameraman in tow. The ever-appealing Colin Ryan makes Peregrine a likeable American backpacker, and Andy Apollo makes Bonario a dashing heroic figure. The peculiar trio of a dwarf, a eunuch and a hermaphrodite (Jon Key, Julian Hoult, and Ankur Bahl, respectively) add a bizarre touch of colour to proceedings. Every home should have such a trio.
The action shifts along at quite a lick – you barely notice the running time – and the show belongs to Henry Goodman, in the most entertaining performance of the RSC’s current season. Jonson turns moralist at the end as the judges mete out punishments left, right and centre. We are admonished to look to our own conduct. It is one thing to enjoy the vices of others, vicariously at the theatre, but quite another to indulge in those vices in our real lives.
Orion Lee helping Henry Goodman look his worst. (Photo: Manuel Harlan)
1 Comment | tags: Andy Apollo, Ankur Bahl, Annette McLaughlin, Ben Jonson, Colin Ryan, Geoffrey Freshwater, Henry Goodman, Jon Key, Julian Hoult, Matthew Kelly, Orion Lee, review, Rhiannon Handy, RSC, The Swan Theatre, Trevor Nunn, Volpone | posted in Theatre Review