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Posts Tagged ‘Pauline McLynn’

I can see why the Globe have revived this at Christmas, not long after its February première. It proves to be perfect seasonal fare – a 400-year-old panto!

Before The London Merchant starts, the theatre is ‘invaded’ by the citizen, his wife and their apprentice (surrogate son) Rafe. They insist on a part for Rafe, a new title and changes to the play and spend the rest of the evening in the audience commenting and interfering with demonstrations of unacceptable and intrusive audience behaviour, occasionally invading the stage themselves to get their way. On stage, a preposterous story unfolds and you find yourself trying to keep up with this and the antics of the intruders.

The play interweaves the story of who Luce marries, her father’s choice Master Humphrey, or hers (his apprentice Jasper), with the heroic exploits of Rafe as the Knight of the title in locations from Waltham Forest to Moldavia, encountering Jasper and his mother, the giant Barbaroso and a Moldovan princess. The pace is pretty relentless, with characters turning up in the audience, from above and below, engaging with audience members. There’s a lot of music and a couple of short pauses for refreshment replenishment as well as the interval, and of course it all ends up happy ever after.

The cast are clearly enjoying themselves, which becomes infectious, and the whole thing is huge fun, if a touch over-long at three hours. Director Adele Thomas makes very effective use of the whole of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which seemed even more intimate than usual, partly because of encounters of the close-up kind with many of the characters. Seeing Hannah Clark’s period costumes close up fills you with admiration for the skills of their makers.

Phil Daniels and Pauline McLynn preside over and control things as the citizen and his wife and Matthew Needham captures the naive charm of Rafe (played by Noel Coward in 1920 and both father and son Spall 33 and 9 years ago respectively). In a fine cast in the play within there are terrific turns from Paul Rider as a Falstaffian Merrythought, Dickon Tyrrell as camp Humphrey (a vision in pink and earrings), Dean Nolan as giant George and Samuel Hargreaves as the (very musical) boy.

Another reason why the SWP is fast becoming a firm favourite venue.

 

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