23 August 2011

Road Show - Menier Chocolate Factory, Wednesday 17th August 2011


After the death of Addison Mizner, people who knew him, including his estranged lover Hollis Bessemer, comment on his life and the way he squandered his talents. Addisonclaims that his brother Wilson was the cause of all his failures.

On his deathbed, Papa Mizner charges his sons with the task of using their gifts to shape America. Mama Mizner tells the brothers that their family's wealth has been eaten away by Papa's long illness and advises them to seek gold in Alaska; Addison is reluctant, but goes along with Wilson anyway.
In Alaska, Wilson leaves to get supplies while Addison works the claim: Wilson is lured into a game of poker, which he is initially bad at but masters quickly. Addison comes to find him, and is shocked to discover that his brother has become a gambler. Wilson stakes their gold claim in a poker game and wins the saloon in which the game is taking place.
Addison leaves in disgust with his share of winnings and travels around the world searching for business opportunities and a sense of purpose . All of his ventures fail due to bad luck, and he is left with nothing but a collection of souvenirs - but the souvenirs inspire him to take up architecture so that he can design a house in which to show them off. Meanwhile, Wilson's businesses in Alaska have failed, and he comes south in the hopes of getting help from Addison. Addison has only just begun to practice as an architect, and Wilson seduces and marries his first client, a rich widow, and fritters away her money on various flashy endeavours. Mama Mizner, who is being looked after by Addison and never receives any visits from Wilson, enjoys reading about Wilson's exploits.. Only Addison remains uncharmed by Wilson, and when Wilson finally comes back, his resources exhausted, he finds that Mama has died in his absence. Addison angrily throws Wilson out of the house.
Later, there is a land boom in Florida. Addison travels to Palm Beach to take advantage of the many rich people settling there. On the train he meets Hollis Bessemer, with whom he is instantly smitten. Hollis explains his situation: he is the son of a wealthy industrialist, but he has been cut off by his father for refusing to enter the family business. His real passion is art, and although he is not himself talented enough to become an artist, he dreams of creating an artists' colony in Palm Beach.
Hollis and Addison arrive at Palm Beach, and Addison shows Hollis's aunt a plan for a house he proposes to build for her. Impressed, she agrees and offers to sponsor the artists' colony. However, Hollis and Addison, now lovers, are too busy designing resort homes for the rich and enjoying each other's company - until Wilson arrives destitute and sick. Addison reluctantly takes him in, and when Wilson has recovered he begins to work on Hollis, persuading him to be a patron to his newest scheme: to build a brand-new city in Boca Raton with Wilson as promoter and Addison as chief architect.

But Wilson's conman instincts resurge, and he promotes the Boca Raton real estate scheme with increasingly extravagant and eventually fraudulent claims, Addison goes along with this, and it is Hollis who finally puts a stop to both the real estate scheme and his relationship with Addison. Brought to a state of desperation by all that has happened, Addison tells Wilson to get out of his life

Returning to the first scene, Wilson realises that he, too, has died. Their differences no longer mattering enough to keep them apart, the brothers set out together on the road to eternity.
Addison Mizner – Michael Jibson
Wilson Mizner – David Bedella
Mama Mizner – Gillian Bevan
Papa Mizner – Glyn Kerslake
Hollis Bessemer – Jon Robyns

Creative team:
Music and Lyrics- Stephen Sondheim
Director/set design – John Doyle
Costume – Matthew Wright
Lighting – Jane Cox

First, it is necessary to go back in time a bit. A couple of years ago, Him Indoors was muttering on about a gap in his collection of Sondheim CD. Something called Bounce. I hunted around on the internet, found a recording, bought it, wrapped it up. It was opened, duly listened to (while I was out) and more or less dismissed as “not that good – you can see why it never made it on Broadway”. The CD went into the rack and was more or less forgotten about; I don’t think it ever came off the shelf again. So much for birthday presents. Nothing more was said about it, And then about 6 weeks or so ago, a friend rang up and started gushing about something called Road Show. I didn’t think anything more about it, until Him Indoors announced that “The Menier are doing that new Sondheim show”. What new Sondheim show? “It was originally called Bounce and its now called Road Show. I suppose we’d better go see it, even though its dreadful”. If its that dreadful, why are we going? “I got cheap tickets”. Aha. We know its going to be dreadful but The Great God of Cheap Tickets has deemed that we go anyway. So I started planning the review in my mind – something about deformed offspring and the story of how this particular child been locked up in the attic by Papa Stephen and had now been let loose to horrify London’s Sondheim fans when it should really have been drowned in a barrel of rainwater at birth. You know, kind of a cross between Jane Eyre and Frankenstein, with a few touches of Rebecca. Reader, never let someone else’s opinion colour your judgement. go unlock the attic, turn on the light and take a look – and THEN make up your mind. For Road Show is (to further mangle the literary analogy) more like The Elephant Man than Frankenstein. Its unwieldy and somewhat misshapen sure; but underneath its perfectly sound and has not a certain lumpy charm all its own. Its not a Follies, Night Music or Into the Woods to be sure but, you know, all families have their black sheep. And to quote The Sound of Music: “the wool of a black sheep is just as warm”. I’ve have liked to have seen some information in the programme about the show’s genesis – were the Menier expecting all the Sondheimites to have this information at their expensively manicured fingertips?
What the Menier have done is work their own kind of magic on this ugly duckling (more mangling of analogies) and have managed to turn it into a reasonably respectable goose. There are a few golden eggs because people will go see anything that’s got “Stephen Sondheim” written all over it, and certainly one currently has to budge up quite a lot in the Menier’s rather cramped seats. If you’re not careful, you might have to sit next to a West End Whinger. Be warned though – 1) there is no interval (what it is with directors specifying “no interval” at the moment? 2) don’t be late and 3) once you’re in, you’re in for the duration – the way the show is presented means that you and your dicky bladder are just going to have to cross your legs and hope.

Various items of furniture are heaped along the two short ends of the performance space (with the audience sit in rows along the long ends) – this means that the very noisy air conditioning unit is at least partially hidden - and these are moved around and clambered all over in a fashion that reminded me very much of a previous Menier Gem (Flight, which should have got more recognition). In fact, its difficult to see how it could be presented otherwise – there are so many scenes and world locations that it would be practically impossible to perform the piece as a conventional production. Its still slightly unwieldy – there are some parts that seem far too long (the extended travelogue sequence), things that are under-developed (Sondheim’s first ever gay lovers), things that could have been jettisoned, things that could have been added (an interval – an hour and three quarters may not sound that long, but believe me, its too long). What makes it feel slightly hackneyed, I think is the fact that it’s a bit of a conventional plot for Sondheim – the life story of two brothers, neither of whom are without their faults, dealing with whatever cards Fate happens to deal them and trying to make the best of it in their own particular way. The “biography show” is a slightly old-fashioned concept, and I’m not entirely sure why Sondheim decided to use it. What is even more hackneyed is that Sondheim falls right into the expected trap of making one brother much more sympathetic and likeable than the other. Its almost as if the audience is being asked to cheer the hero and hiss the baddy at some points. So the evening is not without its faults, but neither is it without its good points. What disappointed me was that I had to jettison the review that was forming in my head before seeing it and realising that I would have to start from scratch, rather than it bursting from my forehead fully formed onto the page. Instead, as usual, I have had to sit here chewing a pencil and staring into space as usual, having to delete whole paragraphs because they were going nowhere and utilising “cut and paste” far too much to get this review born. So I feel sorry for Mr. Sondheim and his attempts to rehabilitate his deformed child. It can be difficult being a genius (and if you think that sounded pompous, I had intended to write something about incubating ideas for a long time and then finding that they hatched out all ugly. I even tried to lever in a witty play on the words oeuf and oeuvre but believe me, it didn’t fly).

What the reviews said:



http://www.fourthwallmagazine.co.uk/2011/07/review-road-show-menier-chocolate-factory/ (by heck, this is pompous)

21 August 2011

Dames at Sea - Union Theatre, Sunday 14th August 2011


In the early 1930s, a Broadway musical is in rehearsal. Mona Kent is its temperamental diva star, Joan a wise-cracking chorus girl, and Hennesy the producer/manager/director. The naive Ruby arrives from Utah, with "nothing but tap shoes in her suitcase and a prayer in her heart" determined to be a Broadway star. Having not eaten for three days, she promptly faints into the arms of Dick, a sailor and aspiring song writer. Ruby gets a job in the chorus, but Hennesy informs the cast that the theater must be torn down, and they must find another place for the show. Joan and Lucky, another sailor and her former boyfriend, renew their romance while Ruby admits her feelings for Dick. Dick and Lucky persuade their Captain to volunteer the use of their ship. Mona recognizes the Captain as a former boyfriend. When Mona kisses Dick, to persuade him to give her one of his songs, Ruby sees and is despondent. Dick explains the misunderstanding and the couple make up. While rehearsing on the actual ship, Mona becomes sea sick; Ruby steps in to save the show and becomes a star The three couples decide to marry.
Mona Kent – Rosemary Ashe
Joan – Catriana Sandison
Harry – Anthony Wise
Ruby – Gemma Sutton
Dick – Daniel Bartlett
Lucky – Alan Hunter
Captain Courageous – Ian Mowat

Creative Team:
Book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller
Music by James Wise
Director – Kirk Jamieson
Choreographer – Drew McOnie
Design – Kingsley Hall

Dammit, I must stop putting off writing reviews and then realising I’m so far behind that the show has actually closed. It doesn’t give you a chance to get to go see something I liked. Because you should have seen this, you really should.

Although I’ve seen a couple of productions that have started here at the Union and then moved to Wilton’s Music Hall, I’ve never actually made it here to the Union itself. We almost walked right past it – if you don’t know its there, you’ll never really see it, its so tucked away. And it doesn’t really look that prepossessing, let’s be frank. It was apparently a completely empty space until it was taken over by one of those far-sighted and highly driven souls who can look at coal and see the potential for diamonds. Not that there are many obvious diamonds out front – the guy who takes your ticket also serves you at the bar and the toilets – well, the thought still makes me shudder and go ick, frankly. There was something from Quatermass growing on the wall by the hand towel and another bit that looked like the Before bit in the ads for anything that kills 99.9% of all known germs DEAD. I suspect that anyone expecting glamour in the auditorium would run screaming from the room unless they found out beforehand that the seats were Glyndebourne chuckouts (totally true, and very comfy they were too, thank you). This is Functional Theatre, my friend.

But Functional doesn’t necessarily mean Bad Show. And in this case, far from it. I confess that I had been in a foul mood for most of the day beforehand, but even I managed to come out smiling at the end, having spent a couple of hours enjoying probably the silliest show ever written. For Dames at Sea, my friends, is a parody of those "Leading Lady Falls Ill On Opening Night, New Kid In Town Goes Out There A Chorus Girl And Comes Back A Star" movies that  were going out of fashion even while Dick Powell was still doing his darndest to convince us he could play the Juve at 56. They don’t write ‘em like that any more – shame! But in the absence of the original, parody will do me just dandy, thanks. Make it a really good parody and I’m even happier. If its performed with gusto by a troupe of talented singers and dancers then hey, I might even crack a smile. Yes, the performance space was cramped to the point where those in the first row were in danger of being decapitated by a chorine’s kick; yes, Rosemary Ashe’s make up seemed to have been put on by a blind man with a trowel (still not quite sure whether this was deliberate or not) and yes; tall people need to duck in case they take out one of the spotlights but when there is clever choreography and a cast who know just how far to push parody before it becomes ridiculous, who cares?

Usually played with a cast of just six, the Union have managed to stretch their budget to accommodate three chorines of each sex, which I was very glad of; I think it would have looked a bit thin otherwise. As it is, all 12 on stage work their asses off. And they can all sing, and they can all act and they can all dance and dammit they can all do all three at the same effing time and I hate their guts for being so talented. The redoubtable Rosemary Ashe gives keeping up her very best shot and who can blame her if she sometimes looks knackered and in desperate need of a fag, a stiff drink, 10 minutes’ sit down and a good cough. Even her wig looks like it would appreciate a nice bowl of cold water by the second half but she keeps on hoofin’ while rivers of perspiration make slabs of makeup run down her face. I’m not going to pick out any of the principals for special mention, but a chorine, Meg Gallagher, for what I think used to be called “moxie”. Jesus that girl can hoof it. And for the very first time I think I began to understand what people mean when they say a girl has legs up to her armpits.

Even the interval was entertaining – as me and Him Indoors grabbed some fresh air outside, a specimen of the type known as My Wonderful Urban Life minced past. Cropped vest showing carefully trained abdomen muscles and carefully cultivated tan, shorts and expensive trainers, Victoria Beckham-esque shades, iPod, a couple of those big paper bags with string handles you get when you buy expensive clothes and Something From the Designer Deli Around The Corner For Dinner. A Walking Cliché, in fact. I laughed almost as much as I’d been doing during the first half of the show.

17 August 2011

Don Quixote - Kirov Ballet @ ROH, Wednesday 3rd August 2011

Driven by the vision of his ideal woman Dulcinea, the aging knight Don Quixote begins his adventures with his trusty squire Sancho Panza in tow.

Kitri, only daughter of Lorenzo, the village innkeeper, is in love with Basilio, the village barber.  Much to her chagrin, she learns of her father's plans to marry her to Gamache, a foppish nobleman. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza enter the village, causing great commotion. Noticing Kitri, Don Quixote wonders if he has, at last, found his Dulcinea. At the height of merriment, Kitri and Basilio, aided by their friends, Espada the toreador and Mercedes, sneak off followed by Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Gamache and Lorenzo attempt to pursue the young couple.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza discover the fleeing couple hiding in a friendly gypsy camp. All are inspired by the romance of the night. As the vision of Dulcinea appears to him, Don Quixote realizes Kitri is not his "ideal", but indeed belongs with Basilio. Suddenly the wind gains momentum. Don Quixote foolishly attacks a windmill, believing it to be a giant threatening Dulcinea's safety. Caught up by one of its sails, he is thrown to the ground. Near death, Don Quixote has an enchanted dream of beautiful maidens in which the image of Kitri symbolizes his Dulcinea.

At sunrise, Lorenzo and Gamache manage to revive Don Quixtote. Sympathetic to the plight of the young lovers, the attempts to lead Lorenzo and Gamache astray.
Finally discovered, Kitri is forced by Lorenzo to accept the attentions of Gamache. The thwarted Basilio pretends to stab himself and Kitri implores Don Quixote to persuade Lorenzo to wed her to the "dying man” Instantly Basilio is restored to health! Triumphantly, Kitri leaves to prepare for marriage while Don Quixote and Basilio salute Lorenzo and Gamache for stoically accepting the inevitable.
The village celebrates the marriage. Don Quixote congratulates the couple, bids them a warm farewell, and resumes his ever-lasting adventures.
Don Quixote – Vladimir Ponomarev
Sancho Panza – Stansilav Burov
Kitri – Yevgenia Obratztsova
Basil – Andrei Timofeev
Gamache – Solslan Kulave
Espada – Karen Ioanissiyan
Mercedes – Anastasia Petushkova
Queen of the Dryads – Ekaterina Kondaurova

Creative Team:
Music – Ludwig Minkus
Choreography – Alexander Gorsky, Nina Anisimova, Fyodor Lopukov
Design – Alexander Golovin, Konstantin Korovin
Sets recreated by – Mikhail Shishlinanikov
Costumes – Konstantin Korovin

Again, this review is being written a while after the event for various reasons, so its necessarily cobbled together from memory. Apologies for this!

As other reviewers have pointed out, Don Quixote is, more or less, a plotless ballet, so there’s not much to do as regards concentrating on a plot. You just have to sit there and let it all wash over you. Basically, the ballet is just a bit of an excuse for pretty costumes and a lot of enthusiastic dancing in a vaguely Spanish style. We “saw” the Marinsky perform this version of the ballet a few years back, but thanks to some rather strange seats in the slips (at stage level but tucked off right at the side, could only actually see about a third of the actual stage) so it was nice to see what we had missed last time! We actually managed to see a lot more this time round, thanks to Him Indoors’ impulsive purchase of a pair of binoculars in Suffolk a couple of weeks ago – even from the very back row of the upper circle, I was able to see costumes, facial expressions and footwork in incredible detail and it was just like having your own private performance as a result. Nice – we must do it more often.

There is a slight air of somewhat faded elegance about the Marinksy productions, I find – almost as if the weight of history presses heavily on the company. This was most evident in the scenery, which was scrappy and thin, and really didn’t do the production any justice at all. I suppose that when you are touring 10 individual ballets, the costumes take priority in the cargo containers and the scenery has to be whittled down as a result. Some of it seemed to have been left behind on the jetty completely – the prologue to this ballet is usually set in Don Quixote’s cottage but here it was simply played out against a black backdrop. There is, however, no excuse for paring down the ballet itself – other productions I’ve seen have been far more detailed in the storytelling and characterisation, and I desperately missed all those little touches that would have fleshed the story out a bit. I also thought there was far too much “panto” – characters such as Sancho Panza and Lorenzo were overplayed well past the point of caricature. I suppose when you have to get the essence of a character over to the poor buggers sitting right at the back of an enormous theatre, some overplaying is acceptable, but I am convinced that Sancho Panza went right through the back wall and out into Covent Garden itself, if not Trafalgar Square.
I felt particularly sorry for the “hired in extras” who had been brought in to decorate the set and do nothing else but sit there all evening at the back of the stage. On second thoughts, however, perhaps I should feel envious of them – not only did they have a ringside seat but they were getting paid for it! And I suppose they could put on their CV that they “…played Don Estelle in the Marinsky Ballet’s production of Don Quixote”. Their placing on set was a bit strange; although for most of the evening they were reasonably well incorporated into the scene, in the final scene they were all plonked in a straight line right in the middle of the set where they looked very uncomfortable indeed, having to do “ballet arms” every time one of the principals approached. Watch old productions of something like Swan Lake and you’ll see many examples of this awfully outdated practice in the castle scenes – every time someone approaches, all the corps have to raise an arm in the direction of their approach and it looks very silly, very dated and very, very artificial.

Andrei Timofeev seemed rather miscast as Basil – when did you last see a blonde Spanish man? He also seemed somewhat slightly built and was completely outdanced by Yevgenia Obratzsova’s spirited and passionate Kitri. ”. I also thought Karen Ioannissiyan’s Espada was a little underpowered – it’s the plum role of the sexy, hypermasculine matador and needs to burn up the stage. But it didn’t. I completely failed to see the point of Maria Shevyakova’s Eastern Dance (which basically consisted of a lot of sinuous arm waving and not very much else) – it looked horribly like she had got her dates mixed up and had been expecting to do La Bayadere instead. By the time someone had thought to tell her, she must have thought “Bugger it – I’ve spent an hour warming up my arms and I’ve put all this make-up on so I might just as well go on and be a “Spesh Act”, because there’s nothing on the TV tonight and I can sit in the dressing room and bum some fags off the corps de ballet afterwards”.

Anyway, it was an enthusiastically received performance, the auditorium was bulging at the seams and everyone had a good time. I enjoyed peering through the binoculars at the costumes (unusually, all the corps costumes were individually designed, rather than being uniform, and this extra effort really paid off well visually, making it a treat to look at), but didn’t really see quite how £25 a seat could be justified when, on a dockside somewhere in Russia there are some enormous boxes marked “Scenery for Don Quixote”.

11 August 2011

Anne Boleyn - Shakespeare's Globe, Thursday 28th July 2011

Hunting through an old chest, the newly crowned James I discovers the controversial legacy of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s notorious second wife -  a copy of the Bible, translated into English.   Time jumps back 70 years, when the witty and flirtatious Anne was in love with Henry, but also with the most dangerous ideas of her day. Conspiring with the exiled William Tyndale, she plots to make England a Protestant country – forever.

Michael Bertenshaw - Robert Cecil
Sam Cox - Dean Lancelot Andrewes
Naomi Cranston - Lady Jane Seymour
Ben Deery - George Villiers/Countryman
Mary Doherty - Lady Celia/Countrywoman
Julius D'Silva - Thomas Cromwell
Sophie Duval - Lady Rochford
James Garnon - King James I
Peter Hamilton Dyer - William Tyndale/Divine
Anthony Howell - King Henry VIII
Colin Hurle- Cardinal Wolsey/Henry Barrow
Miranda Raison - Anne Boleyn
Dickon Tyrrell -Dr. John Reynolds

Creative team:
Written by - Howard Brenton
Director - John Dove
Designer - Michael Taylor
Composer - William Lyons

This is being written a couple of weeks after the event – things have been getting behind at RTR Towers what with all the riots outside in the street, and that’s just the Guildhall students burning effigies of me.

Know the saying “Be careful what you wish for – you might get it”? Well, I came away feeling that I should have listened. I pressed hard to go and see this at the Globe during its first run, and never got to see it. This time round I was taken after some very superior nagging on my part and have to say that I came away feeling that I really shouldn’t have bothered. Such is life eh?

I admit that I have a few problems with The Globe. Its always packed with tourists looking for yer acktual Shakespeeeerien experiunce, innit guv. Most of them haven’t really done their homework beforehand, and don’t realise what an uncomfortable experience it can be physically, standing in the sun for over two hours or wedged onto benches that aren’t terribly coccyx-friendly. There’s little scenery and no spectacular effects, and if they are bored teenagers then its not long before the novelty wears off and they start getting fidgety and start digging in their rucksacks for their iPhone. The stewards always put my back up as well – between the entrance to the theatre and our seats, we had our tickets checked three separate times. Well, I say “we” – I got separated from Him Indoors and the tickets on the way in so there were a series of increasingly terse exchanges between myself and the burgundy-tabarded Guardians of the Inner Sanctum. Then we found that our “restricted view” seats were slap bang behind one of the enormous pillars holding the stage gallery up, and it didn’t help a bit that the majority of the direction put people bang front and centrestage where we could neither see nor hear them (one of the major problems with The Globe is that very few modern actors know how to play a) in the open air and b) to an audience spread out round ¾ of a circle and at wildly differing levels. Very few modern directors can cope with this either – I suggest that during a dress rehearsal they move around the auditorium to check sightlines and audibility). And then I found that the play wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be.

Far from being a cosy re-telling of the Anne Boleyn story we all know and love – boy meets girl, boy has shedload of trouble getting a divorce, girl loses her head entirely – Anne Boleyn takes you backwards and forwards in time, investigating the religious problems the situation caused and – more or less – sidelining the more familiar bits. This makes the story considerably more difficult to follow and far more of an intellectual exercise than I think most of the audience were expecting. Not that I’m complaining about being made to think in the theatre but, as I’ve said somewhere before, if you don’t know much about the historical background, it can get very confusing and a lot of people are likely to switch off. I admit that my interest started to wane quite quickly (problems with audibility really didn’t help) but I gave it a good shot and my investment was repaid eventually after the interval, when for me the play really started to come into its own. This really is a play where, to get the most out of the experience, you need to read the programme notes from cover to cover first, do a bit of research on the internet and then see the play.

It doesn’t help either when your leading lady is not terribly sympathetic, and physically wrong for the part. I don’t mean the character of Anne is unsympathetic; far from it. Even though Anne was a scheming little minx who thoroughly deserved all she got (I always maintain that its Katherine of Aragon we should reserve our sympathy for), she makes a terrific character on stage or screen. She’s the baddy we all love to hate – dark, sexy, dangerously charming, highly intelligent, manipulative and out to get as many diamonds as she can lay her manicured little mitts on while keeping uber-stud Henry at groaning point (even Disney couldn’t have created a better villain). Even the programme notes describe her as “Nobody’s fool”. In short, she knew what she was doing until Fate moved some chessmen in unexpected ways and the whole shebang started to unravel. Miranda Raison, however, is gangly and somewhat plain, plays Anne as a slightly screechy jolly-hockeysticks type and is glaringly blonde. I thought she showed very little of Anne’s manipulative charm and wondered what Anthony Howell’s gorgeous and appropriately leonine Henry VIII could ever have seen in her The whole story falls apart if the portrayal of Anne is underpowered. Unfortunately one feels that with Anne the author has his own particular axe to grind, seeking to recast her as the Heroine of English Religious Reform – a slightly dodgy premise however you view it – against All Those Nasty Catholics. To bolster this, Brenton writes Cardinal Wolsey as a tub-thumping, sweaty proselytiser and Colin Hurley’s portrayal took this and swerved dangerously close to outright caricature with it. We are asked to swallow the idea that Anne can creep off into the woods around Hampton Court for a couple of meetings with the reformer William Tyndale (played by Peter Hamilton Dyer as an avuncular and faintly God-like presence). Tyndale was banished from England for what Henry and Cromwell considered to be his heretical translation of the Bible and was lucky to retain his head and his innards, yet for “banished” Brenton has substituted “Hidden In The Woods With A Troupe of Extramural Merrie Men Wearing Green Cloaks And Floppy Hats”. I’m finding it difficult here to extricate the faults of the play itself from the actual production. It happens sometimes so you will just have to bear with me. I also found it rather difficult to find Sophie Duval’s Lady Rochford as she seemed unconvincing and slightly too shrewish.

The “framing device” of King James’ finding of Anne’s copy of Tyndale’s Bible (which didn’t Lay in the House that Jack Built, despite how it sounds) was an interesting one. James Garnon’s James I was played just on the wrong side of caricature for me with far too much obvious playing for laughs. Campery is always a sure winner with the groundlings, and usually good for a chortle from the galleries but it can be overdone, both in the writing and the playing. Ben Deery was born to play his Love Interest George Villiers and I came away musing over the possibilities of a porn film called “Pretty Boys in Doublet and Hose”, say no more.

I was ashamed to find out on the way back to the station that The Globe isn’t actually built on the site of the original as I had thought, which is now home to a small block of flats of no architectural merit whatsoever. I would have loved to have hung around in the courtyard, shut my eyes and felt, but no, no time to dawdle, train to catch, hurry up, oooh look here’s some crab claws for sale in Borough Market, lets inspect these for 20 minutes. As I said, such is life.

What the critics thought: