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The Mob Reformers review at Lyric Hammersmith – ‘full of surprises’

The Mob Reformers at Lyric Hammersmith. Photo: Helen Murray The Mob Reformers at Lyric Hammersmith. Photo: Helen Murray

Working with the Lyric Hammersmith’s director of young people Nicholai La Barrie and the Lyric’s artistic associates, this is the second production by the Lyric Ensemble, the result of its nine-month mentoring programme of devising, workshops and rehearsals. Written by Omar El-Khairy, The Mob Reformers’ puts forward the idea that we’re still struggling with the same problems of bondage, violence and serfdom, and smashes the 14th century into the 21st to do so.

Prompted by a tour of the City of London led by the Occupy movement, The Mob Reformers prises apart the subject of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt with a sharp, irreverent joy, featuring everything from a Fire in the Booth freestyle by Wat Tyler himself (Johnson Adebayo) to an uncannily good horse impression.

It never seems completely in one time or the other, with characters wearing tunics or slick suits variously and sliding into modern English. A Lady calls the police on some “rustic types, out-of-towners” and Richard II reminds people to subscribe to his channel. Though the contexts don’t map perfectly, the confidence of these young people makes what could be twee something singular instead.

The first of two uses of projection is brief and adds little, but otherwise the production is kept simple: Ranya El Refaey saves the detail for her costuming, the set a raised dirt stage, while Simeon Miller’s lighting is a riot during musical scenes. The end note, of an executioner’s birthday dinner encroached upon by the banality of work, is a grim and well-pitched deflation.

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An explosion of British political unrest past and present that is full of surprises