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A rattling good tale told at high speed

Review by Paul Nelson

IN A frantically paced production, The Fair Maid of the West makes a madcap dash through Thomas Heywood's plays, giving the impression that it is being given by The Reduced Shakespeare Company.

It might well be called The Works of Thomas Heywood (Abridged), well, Fair Maid Parts 1 and 2 at least.

Directed by Andrew Goldberg, who was responsible for the hilarious rap version of The Comedy of Errors - The Bomb-itty of Errors, the evening hardly pauses for breath and dives headlong into a morass of plot and characters which, thanks to the Chorus (James Beamish) is at all times crystal clear.

It is a rattling good tale and is well told, but due probably to the actual speed of the passage of the play, one does not get to caring for any of the characters, which is the only fault I can find in what otherwise turns out to be a novel evening in the theatre.

The preposterous plot is such that the cast have a whale of a time playing a myriad of characters, and out of the general melee there comes a number of performances that are really gold-plated.

Other than the aforementioned Mr Beamish, who also creates a genuinely likeable character as Clem, also outstanding are Richard Stacey, as Roughman, Pascale Langdale, as Spencer, and Tim Stanmore as Goodlack.

Staring a gift horse in the mouth is Preeya Kalidas, whose lacklustre performance as Bess Bridges, the fair maid of the title, is incomprehensible.

She does, however, make a dashing swordsman and if that fire had been allowed to kindle the rest of her performance we might have seen a much brighter evening.

The set is a palatable affair with half curtains both hiding and revealing relevant parts of the world the play inhabits, and the transitions from scene to scene are smoothly executed.

All in all, it is an evening to remember and well worth the trek (for me at least) to Holloway to witness it.

I believe I have mentioned before that the Pleasance Theatre, one of the best-appointed fringe theatres in our city really is the home of the ill-mannered oaf.

At the press night, audience members were still arriving 30 minutes after the play had started with a record 55 minutes for a pair who could not have made head nor tail of the plot at that late hour.

Why the theatre staff allow this to happen, thus destroying any atmosphere the cast have striven for, is incomprehensible to me.

I suppose it would be less noticeable if one sat on the front row, but, alas, that position cannot accommodate everyone. It is a serious fault to which the management must pay attention.

The Fair Maid of the West or A Girl Worth Gold by Thomas Heywood, Adaptation and additional material by John Waters, Directed by Andrew Goldberg, Designer Simon Scullion, Costume Designer Vanessa Frank, Lighting Designer Natasha Chivers, Sound Designer Nathaniel Reed, Fight Director Philip d'Orleans. WITH: Jamie Beamish (Chorus, Clem, Mayor, Messenger, Headsman), Craig S. Cremin (Carrol, Sailor, Spanish Captain, Alcade), Richard Stacey (Roughman, Captain), Tim Stanmore (Goodlack, Bandit), Pascal Langdale (Spencer, Bandit Chief), Diannah Daly (Drawer, Sister of Mercy, Mayor's Wife, Spanish Prisoner, Kitchen Maid, Bandit, Tota), Preeya Kalidas (Bess), Daniel Hope (Captain 2, Merchant Captain, Bandit, King Mullisleg). Presented by Comyns Carr Ltd at The Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, London N7. Tickets 020 7609 1800.

Photograph kindly supplied by Andy Bradshaw.

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