BEDLAM To 1 October.


by Nell Leyshon.

Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk SE1 9DT In rep to 1 October 2010.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS 020 7401 9919.
Review: Carole Woddis 9 September.

Someone’s mad somewhere.
The stigma of mental illness remains stubbornly prevalent in our society, perhaps because the fear of it resides within us all. Treating it as a comedy is therefore a brave act on the part of Nell Leyshon, the first woman to have a play staged at the Globe, either in its present or past incarnations, for over 400 years.

Leyshon whose previous plays have included beautifully-textured, melancholic chamber pieces about rural life – The Farm, Comfort Me With Apples, Glass Eels – decided this time that laughter would be the quickest way to an audience’s heart. And so it proves.

Setting her sights on Restoration comedy, Leyshon grabs audience sympathy through a series of outrageous or filthily funny contemporary songs or moments of gentle humour before suddenly pulling them up short with graphic examples of mental health treatment from the period: laxatives, blood letting, head shaving etc.

Incarceration of the most brutal kind, it’s placed however within what can only be described as a bawdy musical romp, part Oliver! part The Beggar’s Opera to which it bears some resemblance. If John Gay’s 18th satire lampooned crime, corruption and political figures of his day, Leyshon’s Bedlam is a Beggar’s Opera of madness in which the sane are shown to be seriously one sheet off madness whilst the `mad’ talk with sense and reason.

Director Jessica Swales and composer Olly Fox make sure Bedlam fulfils what has now become the popular Globe style – a jolly two and a half hours, which in its more serious moments serves as a reminder of modern parallels with its binge-drinking, sexual promiscuity, voyeurism and sanity upended through broken hearts and financial loss.

It’s a humane, often quite feminist, enjoyable piece that yet lacks substance. Leyshon’s research took her to London’s modern day Bethlem hospital, and her incarcerated characters reflect her care and concern. But whilst she keeps the action bubbling away, loosely woven around the story of a young country girl being re-united with a long lost her boyfriend and the custodial doctor being driven insane by drink and sexual disease, Bedlam remains lightweight rather than penetrating.

Dr Carew: Jason Baughan.
John: Patrick Brennan.
Billy: Daon Broni.
Dr Maynard: Phil Cheadle.
Laurence: Sam Crane.
Sal: Sophie Duval.
Richard: Sean Kearns.
Tom O’Bedlam: James Lailey.
Oliver: Danny Lee Winter.
May: Rose Leslie.
Samuel: Kevork Malikyan.
Annabel: Barbara Marten.
Phyllis: Ella Smith.
Stella: Lorna Stuart.
Matthew: Joseph Timms.
Gardenia: Finty Williams.
Nancy: Jade Williams.
Bedlamites: Charlotte Dodds, Alex Shaw, Jessica White, Chris Wynn.

Musical Director/Accordion: Mark Bousie.
Banjo/Trombone: Andy Robinson.
Percussion: Corrina Silvester.

Director: Jessica Swale.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Composer: Olly Fox.
Movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Jan Haydn Rowles.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.
Assistant director: Chloe Stephens.

2010-09-13 12:23:51

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection