Culture critic Alice J Kiff is impressed by the RSC's captivating and funny production of the Alchemist, reviewing it in Stratford-upon-Avon before its upcoming London run.Written by Alice J Kiff on 28th July 2016
Bumble Herring 150th Summer Fete
As I imagine it, at some point during the term a group of writers sat around a table racking their brains for an idea for a summer production
As I imagine it, at some point during the term a group of writers sat around a table racking their brains for an idea for a summer production. Only naturally they must have looked with incredulity at the bright spark who suggested it would be an interesting idea to perform a comic `history of Britain` set in a ridiculous Castle Combe- esqe village named `Bumble Herring`, where everything in history happened, around the format of a summer fete.
The performance was presented as a series of sketches in two halves at the University Chaplaincy. Whether or not the intention the setting of the production this provided the perfect backdrop to a village fate. When entering the room you were given the sense of verisimilitude of being in a small village church, a feeling of course aided by the offering of homemade cakes with paper napkins and tea.
The sketches ranged from the Celts (plus Russell Kane) deliberating the best method to defend themselves against a Roman invasion at the `beginning` of British history through an imagined seventieth century awkward university fresher’s gathering to the a brief enactment of the development of twentieth century British music.
Sophie Weston gave a brilliantly strong performance as a drunk Scot who imagined planes and television before they existed and Jacob Lovick delivered an equally strong sketch as Shakespeare screaming at his writers.
The humour of the performance was created through idiosyncratic interpretations of each period. The sketch that stood out was the imagined love affair between Anne Boleyn and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey after their beheadings, played by Phoebe Brown and Jack Toop. The audience were in tears as the couple’s heads exasperatedly lambasted their dismembered bodies, (played by two hooded actors) for their ineptitude in performing daily tasks such as walking and eating. The crescendo of laughter reached a peak as the bodies with a mind of their own were soon to be cavorting with one another leading to an off stage coupling, whilst on stage the two decapitated heads screamed with orgasmic pleasure, with Cardinal Wolsey shouting `p p p pick up A PENGUIN`.
The sketches were seamlessly held together by the `fete dj`, played through the speakers, who between acts kept the laughs rolling through ridiculous anecdotes such as him shouting after a thief who had run off with his wellie’s before the welly throwing competition.
All in all the directors Kiran Flynn and Anaïs Seager did a brilliant job. The Sketches flowed seamlessly throughout. Once again Birmingham Footnotes delivered at a consistently high standard.