attributed to William Shakespeare adapted for performance by Phil Wilmott.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street Southwark SE1 0LX To 9 February 2013.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun & 2, 9 Feb 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 17 January.
Whoever created this ramshackle, but diverting, romp it was certainly not the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon. The attribution seems to have been the result of careless filing by Charles II’s librarian who put it in the ‘Perhaps by Shakespeare’ file, presumably without reading it.
Director Phil Willmott has rescued the work from oblivion and, while it is no great shakes as a play, he gives it a first-rate production and has assembled an enthusiastic cast. He is not, whatever else, flogging a dead theatrical horse. There is life in the old nag still.
The plot involves a Saxon nobleman and his haughty daughter, the Em of the title, who are forced into hiding as a miller and his implausible child when William the Conqueror descends upon England. Em is pursued by three knights, only one of whom she fancies – naturally the one who is a bad lot. William falls for a Swedish princess called Mariana, a prisoner of the Danish king.
But the Dane wants him to marry his daughter Blanch, whom William finds resistible, and Mariana wants to marry William’s best friend the Marquis of Lubeck. Lots of complications ensue before everyone gets paired-off, although not, on the face of it, pairings likely to live happily ever after.
The script is not particularly witty and occasionally becomes incomprehensible, but Willmott has done some deft editing. Carole Haines is a deliciously pretty Em, Jack Taylor cuts a Falstaffian dash as a somewhat portly William, Alys Metcalf is nicely calculating as Mariana and Tom Gordon-Gill plays the Marquis with style.
There are also some jolly songs celebrating country matters sung by the ensemble Green Willow, and it all passes the time most agreeably.
William the Conqueror: Jack Taylor.
Lord Mounteney: Tom McCarron.
Lord Valingford: Robert Welling.
Manville: David Ellis.
The King of Denmark: Gordon Winter.
Marquis of Lubeck: Tom Gordon-Gill.
Rocillio: Nicholas Stafford.
Blanch, Princess of Denmark: Madeline Gould.
Mariana, Princess of Sweden: Alys Metcalf.
Sir Tom Goddard: James Horne.
Trotter: Robert Donald.
Fair Em Goddard: Caroline Haines.
The Citizen of Chester: Robert Donald.
Eliner/Green Willow: Rebecca Louise Bradley.
Green Willow: Rebecca Louise Bradley, Lily De-La-Haye, Oliver Healey, Helena Raeburn, Edmund Sage-Green.
Director: Phil Willmott.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Jason Meininger.
Costume: Anna Sorensen Sargent.
Assistant director: Madelaine Moore.