A universe of lewd hilarity

a mad word

A mad world, my masters

Malvern Theatres


THIS is no evening’s entertainment for the prude! Thomas Middleton wrote the piece in 1605 when Shakespeare was still composing his works.

However the RSC and the English Touring Theatre have set the piece in Soho in the 1950s. it is an unrestrained exploration of a world of sexual decadence and explicitness, deceitfulness and theft, corruption and the unashamed pursuit of the lusts of the flesh!

The plot is complex but at its heart Sir Bounteous Peersucker refuses to pass on his worldly wealth to his nephew and heir, Dick Follywit, so the young man decides to steal his future inheritance by deceit and subterfuge, aided and abetted by his two cronies, Oboe and Sponger.

Meanwhile Penitent Brothel is a clergyman who cannot resist the temptations of the flesh, and lusts after Mrs Littledick, the wife of a controlling, obsessive and jealous husband.

Manifold deceptions and impersonations, tricks and ruses occur, and in the end a tale of indulgent decadence becomes a moral tale where those who most fool are themselves fooled.

The effect of transposing the play into the 1950s is brilliant and effective. The play makes an immediate impact, carried along by the swing of the Jazz band and the rock of the songs.

The singer who opens the show, Linda John-Pierre, has a wonderful voice and launches the show with tremendous momentum which is maintained by the very slick and pacy production overall.

The cast adopt an exaggerated farce-style of performance which maintains a lightness and energy that helps to balance the fact that the language of 1605 is a challenge at  times, but the cast deliver the lines with great clarity and projection to enable us to access almost all the lines

They manage to find and communicate sexual innuendo everywhere in the text, graphic silhouettes of sexual activity will amuse or disturb audience members in varying numbers, and the colour of the design elements bring added zest, especially with the Jacobean costumes in the final scene when Sir Bounteous stages a grand ball.

The large cast is led by Ian Redford as Sir Bounteous whose timing, gestures and facial expressions are excellent. Joe Bannister as Dick Follywit whose many incarnations include the prostitute in drag and the robber has mischievous charm; Sarah Ridgeway’s Truly Kidman, Ellie Beavan as Mrs Littledick, Ben Deery as Mr Littledick and Dennis Herdman  as Penitent Brothel all bring tremendous character and slickness to their performances assisted by a very good supporting cast.

The imposing and impressive set adapts to provide the bar, the streets and various homes and provides a show in itself, sensory stimuli include magic tricks, and the adaptation of Middleton’s world is hugely effective. The director has achieved a very coherent and lively vision which makes the show relevant to a modern audience.

Like the tabloid press, the play manages to revel in the salaciousness of the action on the one hand while adopting in the end a rather high moral tone: Sir Bounteous proclaims that whoever lives by cunningly fooling others will himself be fooled, and ‘Does he not return the wisest that comes whipped with his own follies?’ The explicitness of this play may give offence to some with its carnality and innuendo, but none can question the brilliance and talent of the team who combine to bring it to the stage. To 28-03-15

Tim Crow



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