This is an "entertainment" based on the life of Lord Byron, not a play – so it's legitimate (for instance) to include numerous whoops-exposition verbal tics of the "me, his mother" kidney. It often seems, though, that writer Jane McCulloch's own words are persistently more concerned with imparting information than carrying any dramatic weight.
Derek Jacobi has a bit of a cavort as Byron, sometimes to excess (why is it so often deemed legitimate to overact when reciting poetry?), but he can't imbue the exercise with a feeling of purpose. The selections of verse are either brief or blandly musicalised ("It isn't often you hear a woman engaging in Sprechgesang," noted my companion), the intervening biographical segments selective – Isla Blair plays "the women in Byron's life", but the men are for the most part swept under the period matting.
None of which is to damn the show, which after all makes no sweeping claims for itself. It's diverting, and at six weeks in the comfy Ambassadors has no illusions about its importance, but there's as much to chew on as the average Milky Way bar
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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