Voluptua and General

Ellie Beaven as Voluptua, Jon Trenchard as Terence, Steven Kynman as Feclus and Felix Hayes as General Braggadocio in Vice Versa (or The Decline and Fall of General Braggadocio at the Hands of His Canny Servant Dexter and Terence the Monkey). Picture: Pete Le May

Vice Versa

The Royal Shakespeare Company

The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon


In an age where copyright and derivative works are policed with antiquated laws and internet bots, Phil Porter unashamedly culls influences from a long heritage of Greek and Roman comedy and just about every other popular format you can imagine to create his visually stunning and madcap comedy, Vice Versa.

Based loosely on Plautus’s play Miles Gloriosus (literally The Swaggering Soldier) and delivered within the framework of the Roman playwright’s works, this hugely enjoyable production pulverises you into submission, breaking the sternest of theatregoers down with a heavy dose of slapstick, ridicule or intelligent banter. If you want a broad impression think Up Pompeii meets Black Adder meets The Wizard of Oz.

The exaggerated pompous military figure of General Braggadocio (Felix Hayes) is convinced the Roman world adores him, especially the local woman who might surrender to his charms with just a glimpse of his calf. Hayes extorts every bit of comedy out of his character and his energetic performance is a joy to behold.

Braggadocio has a concubine in the form of the glamorous Voluptua (Ellie Bevan) but she has another true love interest in Valentin (Geoffrey Lumb) and the pair are keen to escape to Italy. Miss Bevan was delightful looking more like I dream of Jeannie than a lady of Rome.

Doubling as her supposed twin sister she revelled in the dual roles and spent a fair amount of time navigating Colin Richmond’s multilevel set to great comic effect. Mr Lumb cut a dashing figure as her lover albeit in a glittery short toga and playing his part joyfully like one the escaped pilots in 'Allo 'Allo.


The narrator of the story came in the solid form of Dexter (Sophie Nomvete). Dexter engineers a plot to foil Braggadocio and his servants and aid the lovers escape. Miss Nomvete was something of powerhouse both visually and vocally and led the company in some of the great original songs by Sam Kenyon and Phil Porter.

Kim Hartman made a stunning yet outrageous impression as the prostitute Climax, who has descended into ruin after years of living in a damp box, whilst Byron Mondal as Omnivorous and Steven Kynman as Braggadocios servants took the full brunt of their masters overbearing requests.

Nicholas day as Philoproximus was relatively sedate compared to his crazy cohorts as the neighbour aiding and abetting in the general chaos.

The colourful costumes by Chris Cahill were vital to the whole visual presence together with a selection of tattered robes, men’s socks and suspenders, strings vests and random kitchenware as fashion accessories.  

Vice Versa is maybe somewhat derivative but Porter’s robust creation, aided with polished and detailed direction by Janice Honeyman is anything but unoriginal. It’s seeded with references to a wide range modern comedy and so you don’t need to understand the classical Roman roots to thoroughly enjoy the fruits of this comic assault of the senses. To 09-09-17

Jeff Grant


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