Stratford Upon Avon
THE SHOEMAKER’S HOLIDAY: Thomas Dekker
RSC, The Swan
Runs: 2h 50m, one interval, till Saturday 7 March 2015
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 20 December 2014-12-21
Delightfully funny and a radical thesis
THE SHOEMAKER’S HOLIDAY, the RSC’s offering in The Swan is a seasonal offering. It features a slipper (though we do know the owner and it’s not glass) and the Lord Mayor of London (but, alas, no cat). And more, it’s genuinely heart-warming, for this is a story in which love overcomes all obstacles, and, we assume, lovers live happily ever after. Love is seen to be strong and lovers steadfast.
It’s a play that announces itself as being only about laughter, it’s a play, though, which certainly isn’t. There are laughs a-plenty, but Dekker is putting forward a highly political view of the world. SHOEMAKER’S HOLIDAY is a play that dignifies the working man and woman, and ridicules the ways and mores of the ruling classes and those who would ape to join them
If we sit this alongside Dekker’s co-written WITCH OF EDMONTON, also in this RSC season, we can begin to see how radical and forward thinking many of the period’s playwrights were.
Two pairs of lovers form the spine of the story. Josh O’Connor (Lacey) gives an articulate, humorous and well-shaped performance. Thomasin Rand (Rose, his love) is warn and feisty, with Hedydd Dylan (Jane) gently assuming great dignity as the story progresses. (Daniel Boyd (Ralph, her love, and journeyman shoemaker) touching in his simplicity and ability to carry meaning even when not the centre of a scene. And what a character; he’s conscripted into the French wars and returns maimed. Neither as a figure of fun nor pity; Dekker places him to remind us in the audience of the price paid by working people fighting in wars created by their rulers.
Herding all into shape like and energetic dog is David Troughton as Simon Eyre, shoemaker. He plays broadly yet with a firm grip, living up to his character, the Mad Lord Mayor. Vivien Parry (his wife) is equally though differently dotty – and don’t we just adore her transition into Lady Mayoress. Dekker gives these two a seemingly bottomless bag of insults of which the acme just has to be Eyre’s description of his wife: ‘You Islington white pot.’.
Many excellent performances; Joel MacCormack must be mentioned as Firk, another journeyman shoemaker, who comes into his vigorous, political own in the play’s final quarter.
Phillip Breen directs with intelligence, taking each scene as it comes and going for it; in doing so, he creates a coherent, hi-energy, satisfying and surprising whole.
Ben Allen – Askew
Ross Armstrong – Warner
Daniel Boyd – Ralph Damport
Vincent Carmichael – Earl of Lincoln
Laura Cubitt – Seamstress
Hedydd Dylan – Jane Damport
Sandy Foster – Sybil
William Gaminara – Sir Roger Oatley
Michael Grady-Hall – Lovell
Michael Hodgson – Hodge
Jack Holden – The King
Andrew Langtree – Dodger
Joel MacCormack – Firk
Tom McCall – Skipper
Josh O’Connor – Rowland Lacy
Vivien Parry – Margery Eyre
Thomasin Rand – Rose Oatley
David Troughton – Simon Eyre
Jamie Wilkes – Hammon
Director – Phillip Breen
Designer – Max Jones
Lighting -Tina MacHugh
Music – Jason Carr
Sound – Andrea J Cox
Movement – Ayse Tashkiran
Fights – Renny Krupinski