THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE
by Francis Beaumont.
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse Shakespeare’s Globe New Globe Walk To 11 January.
2.30pm 23, 26, 27, 30 Dec, 2, 3, 8, 10 Jan.
7.30pm 23, 26-28, 30 Dec, 2-4, 6-11 Jan.
Runs 3hr One interval (+2 pauses).
TICKETS: 020 7401 9918.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 December.
17th-century audience participation makes the play.
Poor George; he should have tramped to Stratford-upon-Avon, to see Ye Royal Shakespeare players presenting ‘The Shoemaker’s Holiday. Thomas Dekker’s comedy is what he wants; a play about city tradesmen. Rather as Yegor Timofeevich in Nikolai Erdman’s 1932 play The Suicide, announces he’s a postman and wants to see plays about postmen.
Playwright Francis Beaumont laughs at grocer George and his Wife interrupting a performance of yet another drama of knight errantry What they want is a piece to be called ‘The Grocer’s Honour’, though in a moment of compromise he accepts the title Beaumont gave his play – as long as his apprentice Rafe plays the titular hero.
So off goes the action, from lovers thwarting parents (nothing un-citizen like there) to derring-do around the world. Director Adele Thomas drives it pacily, neatly differentiating the trio who interrupt (how nice, by the way, these solid citizens should treat their apprentice Rafe to the theatre). Matthew Needham is a picture of embarrassment till he gets with the flow of things.
Meanwhile, in the auditorium, Pauline McLynn’s cheerily verbose Wife is full of bright ideas to amplify her husband’s suggestions, when not generously passing round sweetmeats in high rustle-factor wrappings or making loud comments. In one delirious moment the two visitors carry-on a conversation oblivious of the actors’ efforts.
By her side, Phil Daniels’ grocer is a model of grave, unimaginative seriousness – it’s easy to see him forming part of the opposition to the whole idea of theatre, with its lack of respect for decent standards. However ridiculous George’s ideas are, Daniels makes them with the conviction of someone who knows what they like and will have nothing else, confusing society and the stage-play world – even paying characters from his purse to reach a morally satisfactory settlement of accounts.
By the side of all this, the play supposedly being performed struggles to make much impact. Despite some neat plotting, the characters are stock figures. Thomas’s production maintains the energy between interruptions with ever more elaborate physical comedy, with fights and chases employing stage, balcony, auditorium and corridor to considerable comic effect.
Host: Paul Brendan.
Michael: Giles Cooper.
Jasper: Jolyon Coy.
Citizen: Phil Daniels.
Luce: Louise Ford,
Boy: Samuel Hargreaves.
Tim: Dennis Herdman.
Wife: Pauline McLynn.
Mistress Merrythought: Hannah McPake.
Rafe: Matthew Needham.
George: Dean Nolan.
Merrythought: Paul Rider.
Venturewell: David Tarkenter.
Humphrey: Dickon Tyrell.
Director: Adele Thomas.
Designer: Hannah Clark.
Composer: Niigel Hess.
Choreographer: Siân Williams.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKrllan.
Globe associate – Movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.
Assistant director: Caroline Williams.