Civil Rogues is a good, old-fashioned, rollicking romp and, although it follows a rather familiar formula, a first-rate cast ensures laughs all round.
‘Down with actors! Down with plays! Such the cry in Cromwell days!’ - as the poem goes. Set in 1649, Charles I has been relieved of his head, and actors all over the country are running for their lives. One happy band of determined players is in the middle of a performance of Romeo and Juliet, when Cromwell’s Roundheads burst in to arrest them. Three of the troupe manages to escape and take refuge in the home of local royalist, Lady Margaret Cavendish. They are all still wearing their costumes and all are dressed as women… so let the farce commence!
Making use of just about every trick in Shakespeare’s big book, we were treated to mistaken gender identity, hiding in trunks, subterfuge via the donning of blindfolds and finally, the classic play within a play. Quoting and referencing the Bard at the least provocation - from King Lear to Twelfth Night – and prompting much knowing laughter from the seasoned crowd along the way, the play tripped on a merry pace to its rather abrupt conclusion.
The cast held their end up manfully – particularly those men in women’s garb, with Sam Woolf, Laurie Davidson and Elliott Ross performing their dual roles with appropriately grand aplomb. Credit also to Ed Davis, as Daniel, for a beautifully soulful-doleful declaration of love to the rather square-jawed object of his affection.
The lively script was somewhat predictable – although some of its major laughs hinge on the groan of anticipation - and the plot wouldn’t stand up to too much scrutiny. However, the real disappointment was the ending, which would have been perfect for the end of Act I, but was a frustratingly inadequate note on which to end the whole play.
Nevertheless, this tongue-in-cheek farce of a cross-dressing melodrama is hugely entertaining, and just the thing if you fancy a bit of light relief.
Runs until 25th August, 5pm