Writer: Thomas Middleton
Director: Jenny Eastop
Reviewer: Nichola Daunton
Thomas Middleton’s comedic Jacobean romp A Trick to Catch the Old One is given a 1920’s twist in this new production at the historic Rose Theatre. The first Elizabethan theatre in London, the Rose in now an archaeological site, preserved for the nation. With no heating, it can be a chilly prospect, but the damp smells hanging in the air only adds to the sense of history in the building.
On a small stage, overlooking the site of the original theatre’s foundations, the scene is set with an art deco sign saying ’50 miles to London’. Theodorus Witgood, a cad and a bounder with a good heart and an empty purse is trying to figure out a way to get back his estate from his Uncle, who now holds the mortgage. With his former Courtesan in toe, mischievously played by Alexandra Ryall, he sets out to trick his uncle by disguising her as a rich widow who he says he is betrothed to. Easily seduced by money, especially when it’s attached to a young widow, Witgood’s uncle welcomes his nephew back with open arms, though trouble ensues when Witgood’s creditors also hear of the union along with half the single men in town, who are intent on having the ‘widow’ for themselves.
With a sense of mischief and fun throughout, this is a smooth and entertaining production that makes Middleton’s script seem fresh and modern. Jonathan Reid gives a strong performance as Theodorus Witgood, while Cameron Robertson is charming and scheming as his wealth obsessed uncle. Stephen Good also delivers an amusing performance as Walkadine Hoard, an enemy of the family who has something of the innocence of one of the Chuckle brothers about him. Determined to gain the Courtesan’s hand in marriage from Witgood, there are many double crossings in this play, but always the overriding sense that things will turn out right in the end.
In an attempt to escape the limitations of the small stage and include a chase scene, director Jenny Eastop has the cast run down into the archeological site and continue the scene about 40 feet away. While this does add a sense of dynamism to the script, it is a little hard to hear at times, despite the acoustics and does serve to distance the audience from the action a little too much. It is a short scene though, and otherwise Eastop’s direction is fluid and fun, especially in the scene changes, which make excellent use of the comedy duo of the creditors, played by Michael Watson-Gray and Alana Ross.
Runs until 24th May