A Hostage to Fortune

Volpone and Celia

Rhiannon Handy as Celia and Henry Goodman as Volpone. Photo by Manuel Harlan


Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon


VOLPONE is clever; a cheeky hoarder with a humourous agenda to keep every jewel and valuable item that he possibly can.

Other characters loathe his scheming ways and unprecedented wealth, while the audience love his mischievous character and hilariously charming spirit.

In the beautifully engaging play by The Bard’s famous companion, Ben Jonson, RSC legend Trevor Nunn directs with majesty and creates a spectacular little world that is sure to bring a smile to everyone’s face.

Set in a modern banker’s paradise, Volpone is a figure to be envied. His set is a luxurious apartment, with everybody at his disposal. The set gives a clear picture of the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Above the stage we see figures of the stock market flashing in front of us, for Volpone’s delight to keep on top of money, and his homely set is drenched in finery.

A crisp white stage enhances the expensive and lavish lifestyle and dotted around are material trinkets such as bars of pure gold, jewels and other detailed finery. It was a beautmatthew kellyiful addition and a trait that showed the love and detail that the design team put into the production.

Volpone has everything he wants and more. Yet his greed tells him that what he has is not enough. He wants everything at his disposal and will stop at nothing to constantly grow his empire. In a modern life of a wealthy elitist, perhaps a banker, the trickster millionaire fakes his own sickness and death to gain more wealth.

Matthew Kelly as Corvino

Henry Goodman is the titled character and he leads the show without a flaw. In the character of Volpone, Goodman is truly special and makes the audience fall in love with him and everything he does.

With the actor’s excellence and Jonson’s humourous wit, there is a performance of sheer delight. Volpone plays tricks on the most influential, by means of disguise and fakery. One magnificent moment, which happened to be my favourite part of the performance, was within Goodman’s disguise as Sotco, a flamboyant Italian salesman in his scheme to seduce beautiful Celia.

In an impressive monologue, Goodman took command of his playful character and had the audience in constant fits of laughter. His Italian caricature and hilarious ad libs were a delight to behold.

Of course, Volpone’s greedy world was not complete without the peppering of humourous and jovial characters to complete the comedy. A trio of equally rich gentlemen made up of actors Matthew Kelly, Geoffrey Freshwater and Miles Richardson were the brunt of Volpone tricks. Kelly was especially entertaining and was gripping to see in scenes of a darker nature with his wife Celia, played by Rhiannon Handy.

Nunn also makes sure to highlight Jonson’s darker undertones within the play. Each character has an agenda to stop at nothing to get richer and Johnson shows the lengths that people will take purely for material gain. In a scene where Corvino (Kelly) offers his wife as a token to Volpone, the heartache shown by Handy as Celia is memorable. Nunn is tasteful and blends the sharp reality of greed effortlessly into the comedy.

Jonson was an entertainer and it is clear in Volpone that he learned and worked with the best of his time. Trevor Nunn and the stellar cast do well to create a world of humourous entertainment, with a strong and poignant message. The collective company at the RSC create the unique world, with a stellar cast, brilliant music and wonderful staging to create a night of delightful comedy. To 12-09-15.

Elizabeth Halpin



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