Review: Playboy Of The Wide World
Venue: The Friargate Theatre, July 21
Hedgepig Theatre has been at the forefront of the Yorkshire theatre movement over the last year, so I had very high hopes for their production of Playboy Of The Wide World. Did they satisfy those hopes? Well…
Playboy Of The Wide World was originally a very Irish play, set in rural Ireland at the turn of the last century, by JM Synge. Director Andy Curry has wisely chosen to transplant all the relevant details from the original play to rural Yorkshire at an unspecified time, although relatively recently.
As Curry himself puts it, “it seems incongruous for us all to don ‘Oirish’ accents. We’ll stick to what feels right for us.”
On this evidence, it is hard to argue with the logic. Playboy tells the tale of a mysterious stranger who appears in a small backwater village pub late one night, telling a tall tale of being on the run, having killed his own father. To tell too much more would ruin the fun, but needless to say, shenanigans abound when the father turns up, very much alive.
The action begins with barmaid Peggy (Roxanna Klimaszewska) busying herself around a simple yet effective bar set, until she is rudely interrupted by her father and his drunken friends, and then our “hero” Chris.
Jamie McKeller as Chris owns the stage, and indeed the audience as he inhabits one of the most physically demanding characters I have seen at the theatre in a long time. Small wonder he lost nearly a stone during the week of performances!
His chemistry with Peggy was excellent as McKeller and Klimaszewska sparked off a whirlwind romance. Stuart Freestone as Peggy’s intended husband was a wonderful ball of neuroses bringing some great big laughs with another very physical performance.
The rest of the cast were very good, but I have to give special mention to Anna Rose James and Jon Adams as supporting players performing two characters each. Adams is both a burly farmhand and Susan, a local maiden, and James plays a similar maiden yet rocking the biggest fake moustache I have ever seen to double up as farmhand. Well played Julia Smith, costume designer.
That a romantic comedy farce can finish with a cast performance of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds and still make me laugh is testament to the strength of the company and the goodwill built up during a hilarious performance of an old classic play, with a ridiculously committed cast.
I look forward to the next Hedgepig production.