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A Mad World My Masters - Review

Home > Stratford-upon-Avon > Theatre Reviews | Theatre | Comedy
by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Must-see RSC update of the comedy, set in 1950s Soho
Saucy, satirical and scintillatingly hilarious, this bawdy romp is enjoying a refreshing revival by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

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A Mad World My Masters is a refreshing must-see update of Thomas Middleton's classic play

Despite being created more than 400 years ago by Jacobean playwright Thomas Middleton, the underlying storylines of lust for money and sex still ring as true today as they did in 1605.

It helps that the dodgy dealings of a motley crew of likeable characters are now transported into the seedy world of 1950s Soho. But more significantly, Sean Foley and Phil Porter have expertly edited and crafted an abridged, modernised version that the audience can fully embrace.

They manage to carefully toe the line between sleaze and comedy, despite more double entendres than even Alan Carr could muster.

Setting the scene, the play opens with the gloriously soulful tones of singer Linda John-Pierre and a live band battling to be heard over the mayhem in a Soho nightclub. Their soundtrack of Motown songs and the like will weave in and out of the plot throughout the show.

What follows is a combination of slapstick and PG Wodehouse-type shenanigans as we follow two storylines that eventually combine.

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(left to right) Ben Deery as Sponger, Richard Goulding as Dick Follywit and Harry McEntire as Oboe are hilarious as a trio of tricksters. Photo Manuel Harlan

On one level, there's quick-thinking, sly Dic Follywit, the grand-nephew of wealthy Sir Bounteous, who plots with his two foolish friends Oboe and Sponger to rob his relative through a serious of unbelievably silly and hilarious escapades.

Then there's the equally funny and more sordid dealings of Penitent Brothel, who enlists the help of streetwise prostitute Truly Kidman to help him arrange a liaison with the married woman he loves, Mrs Littledick. Her jealous husband will not let her out of his sights until callgirl Truly earns his trust while posing as an Irish nun.

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Former Midsommer Murders actor John Hopkins is superb as Penitent Brothel with Ellie Beaven as Mrs Littledick in A Mad World My Masters. Photo Manuel Harlan

Director Sean Foley offers a fast-paced three hours of fun with tongue firmly in cheek. It's a right carry on as he adds some wonderful extra touches, like making Sir Bounteous's butler, Spunky, a decrepit elderly creature whose hearing aid fiascos raise a hearty laugh every time he appears on stage.

Then there's the charming, dancing bobby on the beat and the nod to Thomas Middleton when Sir Bounteous decrees the finale's fancy dress party will be "everyone in Jacobean costume".

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Ian Redford as Sir Bounteous Peersucker. Photo Manuel Harlan

What's more, it's a hugely impressive cast who all seem to be enjoying themselves way beyond their roles, especially when they involve some front row members of the audience in their jokes and backchat.

This is a fantastic update of A Mad World My Masters. It may be naughty but it's also very, very nice.

Make sure you see it before the play closes in Stratford on October 25.
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Why? Hilarious sassy satire at its best
When: Until October 25, 2013
Phone: 0844 800 1110
Where: Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon
Cost: 12 - 34
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