Writer: Ben Jonson
Director: Robert Icke
Reviewer: Vicki Goodwin
The Public Reviews Rating:
The year is 1610; London is being ravaged by a plague that has driven many to the safety of the countryside. One such gentleman has left his house under the guard of his butler, who far from looking after the interests of his master, is more occupied with looking after his own. With the help of Suble (Ian Bartholomew) and Dol (Lara Rossi), it isn’t long before the house becomes a base for their nefarious schemes.
The idea of spending an evening watching a 17th century play is something that many of us could be forgiven for finding daunting. There are the usual questions, will this be accessible? Will it still be relevant today? More importantly and most asked, will it entertain me? Happily the answer to these questions and many more, is a resounding yes! Director Robert Icke has successfully breathed life into a play that is rarely performed. The language is intact, but the energy of vibrancy of the production seems so alive that it seems incredible that The Alchemist was written hundreds of years ago.
With Face (Nicolas Tenant) as the head of our trio, we are introduced to their world, in which money and riches reign supreme. If there’s any possible way of conning them out of someone, these three will find it. The only question is, just how many unsuspecting fools will fall victim to their games? With a variety of costumes (Jacquie Davies) and seemingly endless ingenuity, the trio manage to somehow keep up with not only multiple cons, but also countless personalities. The energy of this production is incredible. There’s a manic quality to it that at times feels utterly insane. With a fantastic set (Colin Richmond & Splinter) adding a labyrinth feeling adding to the stage, we become part of a crazy world, in which we see just how far people are willing to go when it comes to self-perseveration. If you’re looking for a performance that is full of witty dialogue, sharp acting and intense laughter, you’d be hard pressed to find it outside of the Liverpool Playhouse at the moment. The Alchemist is another triumph!
Sadly there are far too many actors to name them all. From the flawless skill of the trio and on, each actor plays their part with a deftness that demands praise. This is a production that could potentially have been less well received, yet banter with the audience, skilful direction and obvious passion, make this a play that is unmissable. Give the 17th century a try, you may be surprised!