INSIGHTS | Our Young Blogger Reviews ‘Fantastically Fun’ Drama!
By Kieran Wyatt (Grand Young Blogger)
I turn to Chris and tell him of my opposition to audience participation. It makes me squirm and I always get nervous when the house lights go up in the middle of a show, I change myself in all sorts of ways; I find myself poising into a straighter position; covering the sweetie wrappers and nearly finished ice cream cartons clumsily and inadvertently knocking the remaining vanilla contents to the floor.
On the front row of the stalls three dishevelled men sat. As the play began they continued to make a three-seat raucous and I could see, because I have a keen eye for people’s reaction to audience participation, that the ladies behind were becoming despondent in their hand raising, shouting and brilliantly faux-drunken jolliness. In a swig the play was off to a rollicking start, they jumped up to the stage and soon the Jacobian language was overcome by plenty of visual treats and a plot which seemed to incorporate every comic devise of that most rude age.
A Mad World My Masters is the story of… well… as soon as we get into introductory synopsis we also dive into a world of Littledicks and Follywits. On a narrative level A Mad World follows the usual farcical conventions of outrageous disguise, unbelievable misdirection and sex and sex and some fart jokes and sex.
After a while the constant bombardment of innuendo draws close to that dangerous area of overwhelming the audience in a terribly sordid wave. But if one is to somehow calculate A Mad World’s kaleidoscope of characters into one sensible loop, then you fail. It’s a drink to be taken readily and without question, you glug the thing down and let it do things to your brain like somehow make you laugh at the fifty-first mention of Truly Kidman’s cunning.
A pre-show talk in the dress circle bar with assistant director Marieke Audsley opened one’s eyes to the technicalities of putting a show like A Mad World together. Audsley, silky pointed glasses, black and white spotted shoes, appeared to be a good fit with the show. She explained the process of adapting Thomas Middleton’s original seventeenth-century script, the pains that the director Sean Foley and editor Phil Porter went to, to retain Middleton’s original play but also make the language a little more accessible to a modern audience. Personally, I did not detect any clear changes to the script, but perhaps that’s simply the beauty of Foley’s and Porter’s adaptation.
The play is the most accessible Jacobian work I have ever seen, not doubt the language is aided by the inspired new backdrop of 1950’s Soho. No – not backdrop. Soho acts as more of a backdrop to this constantly jittering, kinetic work. The sets are intricately choreographed and each actor plays their part in making on stage transitions a welcome rest from the often wordy, witty back and forths of Dick Follywit and his laboriously silly sidekicks, Oboe and Sponger.
This brings me on to one of my favourite things about the play – the music. There is a playlist on music sharing sit Spotify, a link to the playlist is accessible through The Grand’s website, which catalogue all of the songs used in this jazzed – or should that be… never mind – production of A Mad World. The list includes such great artists as Billie Holiday and Ray Charles. Once again these songs act as an important respite from the lengthy dialogues but also are fantastically fun in their own right, adding a whole other layer to the production which heightens the farce by easily relaying the core emotions of the characters; such as in a blue, purple lit rendition of Cry Me a River.
All of A Mad World’s brilliant designs and production values are brought to vivid life on stage by a lively cast, physicality pours from ever fingertip caught in every wooden case – (a drinking game – every time a character gets slammed in the face, foot or hand with a door?). A Mad World My Masters has images within which will stick in the mind long after the curtain drops. This reconfigured production of the 1605 play is just as rude as the original text but the repetitive cannon of jokes are helped by a creatively imagined Soho and an eternally bouncing live band who move this production into an outrageously entertaining evening.
A Mad World My Masters is at the Grand Theatre until Saturday 7 March
Get tickets here