A MAD WORLD MY MASTERS: Thomas Middleton
RSC, The Swan, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 3h, one interval, till 25 10 13
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 13 06 13
Inventive, witty, fully alive.
Sean Foley’s production is lively and together. It needs a little time for the company to relax into the storytelling but all the ingredients are in place for it to quickly blossom into an innovative and wittily inventive production.
Foley has decided to update the script. Firstly he sets his production in 1950s Soho – a setting identifiable in time and place. And aptly fits Middleton’s rumbustious comedy. He also makes certain changes to the script – right or wrong? Some of us are (sadly) old enough to remember this debate in the 70s. Foley wants to make Middleton’s play work as a whole – he wants to make the jokes work too – for these are part of the play as a whole. Language shifts and slides around in meaning, so often, over time, the jokes are lost; they need buffing up to bring them back to their inherent brilliance. Theatre is live performance, not a museum.
Middleton’s conjured world is cruel, motivated by money and driven by lust. This acting company revel in this and deliver it red in tooth and claw. They just need to bring back the toughness that underpins the play to give the play its full dark, glorious richness.
Terrific performances all round. Richard Golding creates a joyful Dick Follywit – particularly successful as he dons his character disguises. Ian Redford is delightfully dotty as Sir Bounteous Peersucker. Sarah Ridgeway and Ellie Beaven bring easeful comedic qualities to their different women – Truly Kidman and Mrs Littledick. One of the comedy high-spots is the bedroom scene (it would be, wouldn’t it?) they share with Penitent Brothel (handsomely played by John Hopkins).
The concluding party scene in Jacobean fancy-dress is an inspired idea. And Alice Power’s off-kilter designs visually bolster this off-kilter world. Which is a hall-of-mirrors reflection of our own.
Joe Bannister – Waiter/Servant/A Local
Ellie Beaven – Mrs Littledick
Ishia Bennison – Mrs Kidman
Ben Deery – Sponger
Richard Durden – Spunky
Richard Goulding – Dick Follywit
John Hopkins – Penitent Brothel
Linda John Pierre – Jazz Singer
Gwilym Lloyd – Caretaker/Sir Aquitaine Squodge
Harry Mcentire – Oboe
Perry Millward – Waiter/Rent Boy
Ciarán Owens – Master Whopping Prospect
Nicholas Prasad – Master Muchly Minted
Ian Redford – Sir Bounteous Peersucker
Rose Reynolds – Escort/Prostitute
Steffan Rhodri – Mr Littledick
Sarah Ridgeway – Truly Kidman
David Rubin – Private Detective/Sir Skunknodger
Badria Timimi – Waitress/Prostitute/Servant
Deborah Tracey – Jazz Singer
Dwane Walcott – Constable
Jonny Weldon – Waiter/Servant/A Local
Director – Sean Foley
Designer – Alice Power
Lighting – James Farncombe
Music & Sound – Ben and Max Ringham
Choreographer – Kate Prince
Fights – Alison de Burgh