Theatrical virgins Felix Dexter’s grocer and Ingrid Lacey’s pulchritudinous chav wife become theatrical angels in this jolly jeans and codpieces production by Anna Mackmin.
This means dealing with temperamental luvvies, such as Toby Dantzic’s pathetic Luce and Tim Potter’s robust Mistress Merrythought, playing females in sibilant or pantomime dame fashion. The hands-on angels decide that henpecked apprentice Rafe, played by Rafe Spall, should become an actor right now. Not exactly gifted, except in self promotion, Rafe does his worst with a script and plot that owes everything to Bully Bottom and the Rude Mechanicals, by Beaumont’s better known predecessor.
The novice impresarios take over the stalls, adding suggestions and cutting comments on the actors, action and audience. Life upon the stage has hazards for the actors, including randomly flying scenery and the wild Waltham Forest.
Jonathan Fensom’s mixture of witty historical and modern costumes add to the general confusion on stage and in the modern audience. Acted in the kind of ham-style that gives amateurs a bad name, against a series of medieval illustrations, the production is a merry one. Chopper style bicycles become horses, Rafe’s men wear hoodies, while his Agincourt-style speech stiffens the sinews from atop a red van.
This chamber version co-production goes on, expanded, to London for the Young Genius season. It will appeal to theatre buffs with its commentary on acting of the coarser variety and the perils of producing, to medievalists playing ‘spot the plagiarism’ and anyone who enjoys hilarious physical and verbal comedy.