This rarely performed 17th century tale of sex and money has been spectacularly transformed into a 1950s romp set in London’s seedy Soho.
Director Sean Folly, who has described the Thomas Middleton comedy as “the filthiest play I’ve ever read”, has done an outstanding job of recreating such a farcical foray into the sleazy world of prostitutes, tricksters and the tale of an over jealous husband seeking to expose his straying wife’s affair.
The play was first performed in 1605 but the skilful editing and adaption by Folly and Phil Porter make it wonderfully modern and what it becomes is a more risqué (and funnier) version of a Carry On film.
Colourful characters such as Sir Bounteous Peersucker, Penitent Brothel and Mrs Littledick appear like characters off a Cluedo board spouting such vulgar double-entendres which would make Mrs Slocombe’s pussy seem tame.
Ian Redford is outstanding as the hilarious hedonistic Sir Bounteous, a portly, wealthy chap who lives a life of instant gratification whilst being constantly tricked by his scheming nephew Dick Follywit, who is intent on stealing his riches.
Richard Goulding steals the show as the foppish and theatrical Follywit who outwits Sir Bounteous at every turn, taking on many humourous disguises.
An hilarious attempt to steal Bounteous’s riches comes when it is revealed that the only way to open his safe is to operate a secret button on the private parts of a classical looking statue inside his plush home.
Goulding also provoked much laughter when he disguises himself as his uncle’s whore - a convincing female performance which would have probably made Middleton proud.
Fine performances also come from John Hopkins as Penitent Brothel, who is battling against his desires for Mrs Littledick whilst her husband Mr Littledick employs prostitute Truly Kidman, who he thinks is a nun, in an attempt to make his wife pure again.
The play moves along with interludes of fine jazz music and singer Linda John-Pierre supports the cast as they at times break out into song.
The satire ends, with a doff of the cap to Middleton as Sir Bounteous hosts a fancy dress Jacobean party where Follywit makes a final and somewhat desperate attempt to make off with more riches.
Who would have thought Jacobean comedy could be this dirty?
Running time two hours and 45 minutes with interval. Runs until October 25.