606 Theatre's intelligent but flawed production of Thomas Dekker's 1604 comedy epitomises the honourable failure, where the spirit and value of the exercise are more important than the bottom line. It was a great idea to stage the play (one of whose three plots concerns a prostitute turning aggressively moral when smitten by love) in the back end of Raymond's Revue Bar in Soho, but the venue is inimical to the company's desired atmosphere of intimate urban heterogeneity. Similarly, Tom Hadley's timber-frame design is versatile but needlessly cumbersome and given to striking back at the cast.
But this bright young company's verve and wit keep the evening on course. As Candido, the linen-draper whose even temper goads his wife to extremes, Phil McDermott recalls '60s screen nebbish Norman Bird; Reece Shearsmith animates the sketchily-written character of his choleric apprentice George. Danny Sapani makes a still and brooding rather than a fiery malcontent out of Hippolito, desolated by the supposed death of his beloved; as Bellafront, the pro who hangs up her blond wig out of infatuation with Hippolito, Geraldine O'Connell taps into the desperation of a woman trying to regain her honour (although her voice and the jazzy-bluesy score don't mix too well). Even when play and circumstances combine to best them, a company to watch.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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