A Mad World My Masters
by Thomas Middleton edited by Sean Foley and Phil Porter.
London EC2Y 8DS
7.30pm; mats 2.30pm, Sat, Thurs
Captioned perf: Mar 26, 7.45pm
Audio-described perf: Mar 27, 7.45pm
Runs: 2hrs 50mins with one interval, to May 9
Age guidance: 14+
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550
In person: Mon– Sat, 9.00am-8pm; Sun & Bank Hols 11.00am-8pm
Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen Mar 6, 2015, arriving at the Barbican. Previously reviewed earily in its tour (Bath 7 April) for ReviewsGate by Timothy Ramsden
Great-great grandfather to Orton? Or just good in parts?
Sean Foley’s reconstituted Thomas Middleton comedy of sex, money, power leaves no comic stone unturned in its desire to make it attractive and accessible to new audiences.
As filthy in innuendo as any Carry On farce, Foley claims A Mad World to be a true precursor to Joe Orton’s anarchic world of sexual and social subversion. If only!
Foley is/was co-partner of The Right Size who with Hamish McColl gave us the delirious Morecambe & Wise West End spoof, The Play What I wrote. At the time, 2001, I celebrated it as `recklessly tasteless’.
Much the same could be said of this latest though, sadly, for this viewer, without the same rib-tickling success. Foley with Phil Porter makes their Mad World as ribald as any Donald Mcgill seaside postcard. Any moment, you expect, `Oh missus’ , to come fluttering off the stage accompanied by a smirk and camp aside.
So hectic and broadly signposted is Foley’s comic transposing of 17th century London to 1950s Soho that much of what passes for Middleton’s underlying tale of generational, marital, financial and sexual deceit disappears in an orgy of mugging, prat-falls, double takes and double disguises.
Out of the mayhem some rewarding moments do emerge. Ian Bedford’s sub-tumescent squire, Sir Bounteous Peersucker is a delight as is the aged retainer of David Rubin’s shambling Spunky (though a bit of a steal from similar in Nick Hytner’s updated Goldoni, One Man Two Guvnors). Joe Bannister’s Dick Follywit – `Oh, I am good’ – shines as a swivel-hipped batchelor-on-the-make with an ease of voice and cross gendered charm that marks him out as a future musical leading man.
Indeed, best of all in a show notable for its Fifties bee-bop and rhythm n’ blues songbook soundscape is the live band and remarkable vocal tones of singer, Linda John-Pierre, a red hot momma in the best tradition of Bessie Smith.
Perhaps Foley should have gone the whole hog and turned A Mad World into a fully fledged musical. It’s almost one now.
I should report that others around me, including my companion, were loving it for its downright silliness. Just call me old-fashioned…
A Mad World My Masters
By Thomas Middleton
Edited by Sean Foley and Phil Porter
Master Whopping Prospect: Charlie Archer.
Dick Follywit: Joe Bannister.
Mrs Littledick: Ellie Beaven.
Mrs Kidman: Ishia Bennison.
Constable: Christopher Chilton.
Mr Littledick: Ben Deery.
Penitent Brothel: Dennis Herdman.
Singer: Linda John-Pierre.
Call Girls: Pearl Mackie, Lois Meteri-Jones.
Oboe: Lee Mengo.
Sponger: Michael Moreland.
Master Muchly Minted: Nicholas Prasad.
Sir Bounteous Peersucker: Ian Redford.
Truly Kidman: Sarah Ridgeway.
Spunky/Detective: David Rubin.
Sir Andrew Fondlewife: Bertie Taylor-Smith.
Waitress/Moka Owner: Sarah Quist.
Waiter: Jonny Weldon
Trumpet: Thomas Allan
Keyboard: Candida Caldicot
Bass: Ayse Osman
Drums: Tom Peverelle
Trombone: Ellie Smith
Director: Sean Foley.
Designer: Alice Power.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound/Music: Ben and Max Ringham.
Musical Director: Candida Caldicot.
Choreographer: Polly Bennett.
Fight choreographer: Alison de Burgh.
Associate director: Marieke Audsley.
Assistant lighting: Jenny Roxburgh.
Presented by the Barbican, produced by Royal Shakespeare Company in association with the English Touring Theatre
First perf of this production of A Mad World My Masters at the Barbican Theatre, London, April 29, 2015.