This swashbuckling, farcically entertaining tale of mistaken identity, with its echoes of Shakespeare, WS Gilbert and Mark Twain, is deliciously hammed up in Philip Dart’s sparky version which gives us four characters in a 1950s village hall acting out the story because the projector has broken and they can’t watch the film.
The direction is slick, the ‘improvised’ costumes good fun, the shadow puppetry hilarious and the music wittily apt. In places, it’s face-achingly funny. It will be a long time before I forget a sequence involving Rossini and two broomsticks, for example.
Dart has assembled a talented cast who play well off each other and whose accomplished voice work supports the doubling so well that the piece becomes almost a showcase of versatility. Delme Thomas, a very watchable actor, is master of the suggestive leer and cheerful malevolence. Liam Bewley delights as the awkward, irritating Henry in ‘real’ life and as the dastardly Black Michael alternating as a supportive loyal servant. Gabrielle Douglas is elegant and passionate in three female roles along with various minor parts, all played with distinction. Most impressive of all is Thomas Richardson as the kidnapped King and the lookalike tourist from England, Rassendyll, darting between roles with panache and conviction.
This, sadly, is Chalkfoot’s last tour - but how nice to see a company that has produced so much pleasing work in its 25-year history going out on a high. The final show is quite a swansong.