It's always great to see theatrical innovation and the RSC's current batch of neglected, little-known Jacobean plays is a welcome sight on Shaftesbury Avenue. Direct from a successful season at Stratford's Swan Theatre, on offer are five rare plays by Shakespeare's contemporaries including a newly discovered one thought to be by the Bard himself, Edward III. Eastward Ho is the fruitful result of a collaboration between George Chapman, John Marston and the marvellously pithy Ben Jonson. It's a vibrant, boisterous comedy brilliantly realised by Lucy Pitman-Wallace and her dynamic cast.
Touchstone is a London goldsmith with two apprentices: the sober, virtuous Golding and the inebriated jack-the-lad Quicksilver. He's two daughters of equally contrasting temperaments- one modest Mildred, the other madly ambitious Gertrude. Marrying her knight Sir Petronel Flash she little realises that the castle he has promised her exists only in the imagination. It's a realm similarly familiar to the wily Quicksilver who has delusions of lordly grandeur; swiftly the chaos created by these greedy, vain characters sets in motion a frenetic comedy of the highest calibre.
A city comedy of this type glories in creating a richly enjoyable rogues gallery and, in addition to the grasping Quicksilver (superbly played by Billy Carter) there are delightful turns from Michael Matus' foppish Flash and Paul Bentall's deluded moneylender, the aptly named Security. Amanda Drew creates an amiably absurd Gertrude, a lisping ladyship who flounces round in pantomime fashion. Everyone, indeed, is first-rate in this thoroughly entertaining and stylish production that simply oozes panache.
Notices from the popular press....
RACHEL HALLIBURTON for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Delightful satire" ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "The production sags whenever she's[Amanda Drew] off the stage." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Bustling bourgeois comedy."
External links to full reviews from newspapers