Tag Archives: Phill Ward

One Man, Two Governments

THE HYPOCRITE

The Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon, Wednesday 12th April, 2017

 

Working in collaboration with Hull Truck Theatre, the RSC brings us this new play from writer Richard Bean – of One Man, Two Guvnors renown.  It’s the eve of the Civil War and the country is already divided.  In Beverley, Sir John Hotham is torn.  Should he support the King or Parliament?  He flipflops between sides, playing each against the other, until his equivocations overtake him and he is arrested and – well, spoiler alert: the play begins with his execution.  Knowing Hotham’s fate from the off removes suspense but his path to the chopping block is a twisted and entertaining one.

As the double-dealing Hotham, Mark Addy gives a star turn, brimming with Northern bluster and human failings, like a Tory jumping ship from Leave to Remain and back again.  This is One Man, Two Guvnors in period costume.  Caroline Quentin is his cooler-headed wife (the latest in a long line) but nonetheless funny.  Sarah Middleton is a scream as their daughter, Frances, a giddy, histrionic young girl tearing around and even rolling into the laps of the front row.  In contrast, her brother Durand (Pierro Niel-Mee) is straight-laced and academic – until his own ardour is aroused, of course.  Canny servant Connie (Laura Elsworthy) and decrepit old pantaloon Drudge (an unrecognisable Danielle Bird) complete the household, embodying dry wit and physical clowning respectively.

There is a double act of young suitors in the shape of James, Duke of York (Jordan Metcalfe) and Prince Rupert of the Rhein (Rowan Polonski) who, for reasons of plot, dress as lady fishmongers.  Both Metcalfe and Polonski are appealing presences and very funny.  Also good fun is Ben Goffe as King Charles himself, mounted on a hobby horse – Goffe also makes an impression as the ghostly figure of a young girl murdered for breaking a vase.

Bean populates his five-act comedy with stock characters, making a farce of historical events and peppering the dialogue with sharp relevance.  Hypocrites who seek to further their own ends at the expense of integrity – they should meet Hotham’s fate!   The religious and the spiritual also come in for a lambasting.  The puritanical Pelham (Neil D’Souza) and the hedonist Saltmarsh (Matt Sutton) are held up as excessive figures – the comedy arises from the exposure of weakness and appetites common to humans and both celebrates and mocks our foibles.

Director Phillip Breen pays attention to fine detail as well as broad comic playing.  At times the action is chaotic – or seemingly so, as choreographed chases and fights break out.  The acts are separated by rousing songs (by Grant Olding) performed live and on stage.  Phill Ward is in excellent voice with his stirring agit-prop anthems that bring to mind the songs of recent folk-rock group The Levellers.

The show is consistently funny in a theatrically traditional way but it is more than a farcical reconstruction; it speaks to us directly.  We are today in a divided country.  We are caught up in epoch-changing political events – we can only hope that, unlike Hotham, we don’t lose our heads about it.

Hypocrite pete le may

Mark Addy as Hotham (Photo: Pete Le May)

 

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Norsing Around

NORSESOME

mac, Birmingham, Friday 25th July, 2014

 

People have at least a nodding acquaintance with Norse mythology – be it from the names we give to the days of the week, to Wagner’s Ring Cycle, The Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones, or of course, the comics and CGI-laden films of the MARVEL adaptations. This production by Temple Theatre reminds me why it’s my favourite mythology, rich as it is in adventure and magical happenings.

Devised by the company and scripted by Paul O’Mahony (who also performs) and Mike Tweddle (who also directs), it is a 90-minute romp through the stories, a dazzling display of physical comedy, performed by three energetic and versatile actors on an almost bare stage.  

They are dressed like ordinary people of today – the gods have very human foibles as well as superpowers; the actors don hats and neckties and so on, to signal the rapid changes between characters. The whole of Asgard is represented, each god delineated by an alteration to stance and demeanour. There’s a lot of running around but Tweddle’s direction keeps the action perfectly clear; there is no confusion about who’s doing whom at any moment.

Keep an eye out for the magnificent Troels Hagen Findsen as Odin, holding court – while Paul O’Mahony and Leon Scott tear around as gods and goddesses, often exchanging dialogue with themselves. O’Mahony’s Loki is how I imagine the trickster to be, rather than the snooty posturing ponce we’ve seen in recent blockbuster films, and Scott’s Thor is a marvellously hilarious characterisation. Such is the skill of the actors, I feel bad for not mentioning other characters, as if I’m missing someone out!

It’s fast-moving in terms of action and plot, and thanks to a tight and witty script, peppered with original songs (by O’Mahony and Rob Castell) never flags for a second. Phill Ward’s sound design enhances the imaginative use of mime, physical theatre, voice, gesture, and (yay!) puppets is marvellously entertaining and although this is a very humorous take, the stories themselves are not buggered about with. There are moments –just little touches – of high drama too, as the global consequence of these often bonkers events are considered. There is a pertinence here, a relevance to current events in our world of men and monsters. The most important thing in the world is peace, says Odin.

You can’t argue with that.

norsesome