The Royal Shakespeare Company's big summer production of Ben Jonson's 17th century romp Volpone is very much a hit and miss affair.
The play is given a contemporary setting.
Thus we find Volpone (Henry Goodman) conning his way through 17th century middle class suckers using 17th century language but in a room fitted with smoked glass panels, Dow Jones hourly forecasts on TV screens either side of the stage and the stock market results running like an electronic frieze above his head.
Centre stage is a modern hospital bed fitted with a drip apparatus. When a mark appears on the security screen ringing the bell, Volpone whips off his satin lounger jacket and leaps into bed in a scrag wig and rheumy eye drops.
To all intents and purposes Volpone is at death's door and the various wealthy marks, Corvino (the superb Matthew Kelly) and Corbaccio (the equally fluent Geoffrey Freshwater) bring gold and diamonds to ensure they will be in Volpone's final will.
I have known productions richer than this.
Contemporary settings, natty gents' suits and a general feel of today always collide with the time in which they were written and jar the sensibilities.
It's easy to do it for directors, for the wardrobe department there are no doublets to cut or farthingales to be fitted, but I always groan inwardly.
I long for earlier Volpones where the famous bed is in heavy shadows and where Volpone's bizarre servants, the hermaphrodite, the eunuch and the dwarf Nano, can appear whispering and laughing, like an Aubrey Beardsley illustration reeking of underworld decadence.
But you don't get any of that. And chrome can kill atmosphere quite as much as it can create it.
So the conning goes along. At one point, Volpone turns up as a pedlar of cure-all nostrums.
Since Jonson doesn't quite say the things this contemporary concept requires, a load of modern jokey references are thrown in to get a laugh which, in its way, is lamentable.
Mosca (Orion Lee), Volpone's creature, who I have seen played in this theatre as a cringing, shaggy-haired, cunning servant, is re-imagined here as a slender, impeccably suited creature in his mid-20s.
Mr Lee gives us a Mosca who is unnervingly tentative, without command, bland where he should be acid-edged and looking for all the world like a suave gangland supremo from a Bruce Lee movie.
And, like many another character in this production, his vocal projection needs help (he often blends two vowels together, omitting to use the tight edge of the consonant) and so frequently you cannot grasp what he is saying which for Mosca is dangerous.
Still, Mr Kelly and Mr Freshwater, among many "début" performances, set a great standard and Henry Goodman is in his element.
I also admired Annette McLaughlin's gorgeously droll Lady Politic Would-Be, a tough fashionista with stand-by camera man in attendance, plus make-up girl and hairdresser.
Think of Grace Black in Hollyoaks and you've got it. Here is a performance to lift the spirits in a night which needed it badly.
Trevor Nunn directs. Runs until September 12.