Reviewed at: Swan Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon
As part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Rome Season, a bit of comic respite from the Shakespeare catalogue plays in the Swan Theatre. This world premiere production is lovingly ripped off from the plays of Plautus by writer Phil Porter.
The hilarious comedy follows the story of General Braggadocio. His wily slave, Dexter, spends much of her time trying to hide that her master’s mistress is making love with her lover next door. The only way to prevent this being found out is to pretend the General’s mistress has an identical twin. Cue moments of genuine hilarity and pure slapstick fun.
Under the direction of Janice Honeyman and with the hilarious script of Phil Porter the play is just pure fun. You laugh, and laugh, and laugh. The tone is set right from when we approached the Swan Theatre with a couple of musicians, who were also dressed as monkeys playing music. Once inside the theatre, more music and actors interacting, including an artist drawing one of the female audience members. Once the play began it began with an audience participated sing-song of General Braggadocio’s chant as he entered in his ‘chariot’ (a motorised mobility scooter!).
The Saturday night crowd was lapping up the hilarity. It’s full of sauciness, with lots of sexual humour, including a canon, a long list of ways to call lovemaking, and the general referencing Donald Trump, which got rapturous applaud. There’s a great moment with the delivery of groceries in a rather large crate where Dexter is using all the items to describe what’s happening, “that’s shallot” being the final one.
The cast is just superb. I can’t fault any of them. The comic timing and energy throughout is just a mark of a genius company and of hardworking talented actors. Felix Hayes is magnificent every time he’s on stage as the pompous General. His voice and general comic work are a joy to watch.
Ellie Beaven is stunning as Voluptia, her energy running from each household is brilliant. Nicholas Day is excellent as the neighbour Philoproximus and makes a very funny statue. Kim Hartman’s Climax is well worth the wait in the second act.
The performances of Steven Kynman as Feclus and Byron Mondahl as Omnivorous, two of the General’s slaves, they are totally drunk in the second half from taking the alcohol from the grocery delivery. This leads to a very interesting meal between the general and the ‘twin’ sister of Volputia. They get the performances so right and are joys to watch.
Although it’s an entire company production and as I say they are all superb, even the ones who are very much supporting roles are great but the performance of Sophia Nomvete as Dexter is fantastic. She is just a joy throughout, her magnetic smile and her comic delivery is top notch. A special mention to Jon Trenchard who plays Terence the monkey, he moves excellently around the theatre throughout and is just wonderfully cute.
Colin Richmond’s set design is glorious. There are numerous props that really add to the humour. The songs by Sam Kenyon really add to the piece too and are very catchy. The musicians, some very much characters in the piece, are great.
The production is described like this on the RSC website – “This production contains scenes of a rather saucy nature, a badly behaved monkey and may not be suitable for younger audiences. A farcical sense of humour is absolutely essential!” and this couldn’t be apter.
The performance is the funniest I’ve seen on stage and one of the best things I’ve seen at the RSC across the near 30 productions. It’s bonkers, brilliant and hilarious. I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s a tonic we need in the world right now. Buy a ticket now and escape to Rome for 2 hours, you’ll laugh, laugh some more and leave with a big smile on your face. Utterly brilliant live theatre.
Vice Versa plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in repertoire with Salome until September 9th, 2017. For more information and to book, click here.
*If you’re between the age of 16-25 you can access £5 tickets to this and any of the RSC productions by becoming a free member of the Key. Use the code 1625 when booking to access these £5. A superb bargain and a great way of being able to see world-class theatre – for more visit here.*