Humors are no laughing matter

The Anatomy of Melancholy

Birmingham Rep


The Anatomy of Melancholy, performed by Stan's Cafe was an experience that certainly challenged the mind.

This theatrical lecture, derived from the original musings of Robert Burton, took us back to a 17th century medical culture and enticed us with a world of scholarship that showed us exactly what it was, and still is to be melancholy.

Perhaps to our Elizabethan ancestors, to be ill or ‘melancholy,' was to be effected by the  humors. Sickness was determined by the powers above and could be treated only by natural remedies. In today's day and age, we have the technologies to overcome the harshest of diseases.

Stan's Cafe takes us back to the mindset prevalent between the years 1621 and 1651 during the first publishing's of Burton's anecdote and allows us to see the swift medical changes that have appeared from then until now.

This may be so, however, Stan's Café are far from regular and always exceed to push the boundaries of our usual train of thoughts. The setting is what can be presumed to be an early 17th century lecture hall, perhaps even Oxford where Burton studied with an old professor riddled with nervousness and unbelievable sadness.

This is Gerard Bell, an excellent performer and the driving force that bonded all elements of the show. Bell was also joined by the vigorous trio who were Rochi Rampal, Graeme Rose and Craig Stephens, all of whom never put a foot wrong, taking the persona of the four humors that are a central part to Burton's theories, enticing us with dynamic skills of deliverance of Latin, classical English and even interjections of songs.

It was easy to tell that the hard work during the rehearsal process gave way to a tight and flawless cast, allowing us to be a part of their unique world.

We are taken back to a 17th century wonder as the Stan's Café company boldly make a relic of the past shine through to the 21st century, reaching the audiences of today, allowing us to see that with ‘Melancholy', some things never change.

A superb example shows a humorous comment in, when explaining the causes of Melancholy, student's find themselves in solitude and in bouts of sadness due to the overwhelming fear of having to afford the costs of paying for tuition. Some things have not changed.

There is, however, a word of warning. This show is long, running just shy of three hours and because of its somewhat uncommon context, you may find that you need some time to become attuned to the production.

Do not let this deter you, Stan's Café are masters of presenting facts in new and daring ways. This production will leave you full of knowledge and mindlessly disorganised at the same time. Something that only Stan's Café can set out to achieve in so effortless a manner.

Directed by James Yarker it runs to 09-11-13.

Elizabeth Halpin 


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