It is the women who steal the show in this revival of a bawdy Jacobean comedy picked by the RSC to kick off its season where female characters take centre stage.
Lisa Dillon is exceptional as the provocative cross-dressing Moll Cutpurse, an underworld figure who refuses to bow to female conventions and instead lives her life boozing, engaging in petty crime and brawling with men.
As a tattooed Moll, she swaggers through the play with a cigarette clenched in her mouth, head cocked and sporting a variety of fetching Vivienne Westwood inspired gear including bowler hat, waistcoat, flashes of tartan and leather fingerless gloves.
She plays guitar, bursts into song whilst plucking a double bass and swings from a chandelier, all of which added pace and dynamism to a performance which at times felt a little slow.
Lizzie Hopley makes her RSC debut here and is superb as Mistress Gallipot, the bored wife of a tobacconist who seeks fun and frivolity with a deceiving Laxton who is only after her money to woo other women. Her comic delivery is excellent as she convinces her husband to give his money away to her potential lover.
Director Jo Davies has brought this Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton play forward into the straight-laced but sex obsessed Victorian era and at times it works well.
It doesn’t quite have the same pace or hilarity of Middleton’s Mad World, My Masters, staged at the Swan last year, and occasionally lost impact and left me wondering where it was all heading.
It was the underworld scenes featuring Moll which really made it come alive and live music from her four-piece female band, The Cutpurses, added a nice touch.
But a moment when Mol and the shady figure of Ralph Trapdoor (a strong performance by RSC stalwart Geoffrey Freshwater) grab microphones and perform a rap towards the end of the play was rather at odds with the period and a little bemusing.
The play certainly went out with a roar as the cast delivered an entertaining dance routine but the modern elements of it left me wondering what the relevance of it all was.
Runs until September 30