foul pages

29 May

FOUL PAGES *** By Robin Hooper
At the Hope Theatre
Plays involving William Shakespeare are always fascinating. However his heart and his brain have been investigated by so many different writers with so many differing results that it is a joy to see him as a simple working writer collaborating with his friend The Countess of Pembroke (The impressive Clare Bloomer)who is playing host to the players escaping from plague ridden London.
Another advantage here is that the actors are all living in close contact so, like an old fashioned play there is just the one set.
However he has written it in short scenes, and it takes a while to get ones brain into the correct gear, especially as between each little scene there is a whole lot of excruciatingly loud music which I found not only annoying, but in my case actually painful.
The main occupation of Mr Shakespeare (played with dignity by Ian Hallard)is to finish his play in order to win the favour of the new Scottish King James the first. A familiar problem arises when one is writing under orders, the patron insists on undesirable alterations in the casting. The leading role is Rosalind and the leading juvenile of the company is being pushed aside to give room to the Innamorato of the King .
Of course much is made of the casting of plays most especially the use of young men to play the leading ladies and there are many slightly bawdy and very gay jokes during the whole of the performance.
The play begins as a crazy comedy, the main character being a talking dog who is the unnamed and unrecognised narrator of the action. It is a great and unusual part for an actor and it is played with lots of fun and dedication by James King. A terrific role where he doesn’t have to communicate with the actors except to get a lot of cuddles.
Clare Bloomer is an imperious countess and a lot is made of the fact that Will collaborates and takes advice from a woman, so that women had their place even though they were not allowed to perform. Peg, her maid is played by Olivia Onyehara and these are the only two women in the cast but they are strongly registered..
All the young men are absolutely gorgeous and play with great honesty, truth and wit. Lewis Chandler is the blonde beauty originally engaged to play Rosalind and Thomas Bird is his usurper. Greg Baxter plays Ed, the sweet young man who is playing Orlando and is distressed to lose his lovely Rosalind.
Probably the most comical character is that of Tom Vanson who is the highly vain and over-dressed, over-made up and over- jewelled Scottish King – and his over-butch Protector is played by Jack Harding.
All good, crazy – if sometimes confusing – fun. The edge taken off from me – and probably only me – by the horrendous noise, like being at the heart of a thunderstorm. Longed for my earplugs.

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