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The full title of this play is actually Vice Versa (Or the Decline and Fall of General Braggadocio at the Hands of his Canny Servant Dexter and Terence the Monkey). And if that doesn’t give you the idea that you are in for a few hours of fun, laughter and daftness, then I don’t know what will.

The play is a new script by Phil Porter, described as ‘lovingly ripped off from the Roman comedies of Plautus’. The story revolves around the pathetic and self-deluded General Braggodocio, who has taken as his concubine the unwilling Voluptua. She, meanwhile is having a clandestine relationship with her true love Valentin, and the General’s servant Dexter has to hide the fact from her boss, while simultaneously scheming to get Voluptua, Valentin and herself out of the General’s clutches.

I can honestly say that from the moment the play started until the moment the cast took their final bows, I had a constant grin on my face, and it is no exaggeration to say that I laughed out loud genuinely and frequently – the whole audience seemed to share a real enthusiasm and found the play extremely funny.

Felix Hayes certainly had no qualms about sending himself up in the role of General Braggadocio, and was terrific in every scene. The whole supporting cast were fantastic too, with Byron Mondahl and Steven Kynman great as his two inept servants Omnivorous and Feclus. Ellie Beaven and Geoffrey Lumb also shone as lovers Voluptua and Valentin, and Nicholas Day was truly hilarious as Philoproximus Braggadocio’s neighbour who is complicit in the the double crossing). Special mention also to Kim Hartman who played a prostitute called Climax(!) However, the main plaudits surely have to be reserved for Sophie Nomvete as Dexter – not only did she have the job of tying the whole story together and keeping the audience involved, she also had the biggest role and the most dialogue – she never missed a beat, and the unpacking the shopping scene (watch the show! I don’t want to spoil this scene for you!) was incredibly funny, well written and brilliantly delivered.

This play actually holds the records for the most amount of props (244) used in an RSC production, and indeed they were brought out with frequency. The whole production was colourful and brash, with a lot of physical ‘slapstick’ style comedy as well as numerous double entendres and puns.

I loved the production and would happily have sat through it again straight away. I definitely recommend that anyone who enjoys a good solid belly laugh sees this production while it’s on!

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I first saw this play at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, in July 2013 (please see below for my link to the review), and when I heard that it was touring, I knew I had to see it again.  Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is set up very differently to the Swan Theatre, so logistically some of the entrances and exits of the actors had to be changed, as well as there being some changes to the scenery set-up.  A lot (though by no means all) of the main cast had also changed but happily, the show was just as enjoyable and funny second time around.

In essence, the story consists of young Dick Follywit, a likeable cad, who is determined to con his uncle, Sir Bounteous Seersucker (yes, really!) out of his fortune, and employs various methods to do so.  Meanwhile in a separate storyline, Mrs Littledick wants to pursue an extra-marital affair with Sir Penitent Brothel, but her husband Mr Littledick is determined to keep a close eye on her, so she uses her friend, prostitute Truly Kidman to act as go-between between her and Penitent.

The play is bawdy, and very VERY saucy.  If you are not one for dirty jokes, then this probably isn’t the show for you.  However, if you don’t mind rude humour, then you are guaranteed a lot of laughs.  Joe Bannister was excellent as Dick Follywit, and I really liked Ben Deery and Dennis Herdman as Mr Littledick and Penitent Brothel respectively.  The roles of Mrs Littledick, Truly Kidman, Mrs Kidman and Sir Bounteous Seersucker are still being played by the same actors as previously (Ellie Beaven) Sarah Ridgeway, Ishia Bennison and Ian Redford), and it is clear that they have not lost their enthusiasm for this play.

Linda John-Pierre also returns as the soul singer with the incredible voice; her and Ellie Beaven’s duet of Cry Me a River was sensational.  Ian Redford was hilarious as Bounteous Peersucker, and I also really enjoyed David Rubin as Bounteous’ deaf, shuffling old butler, Spunky.

If you haven’t seen this play before, do yourself a favour and get tickets.  If you have seen it before…do yourself a favour and get more tickets!  I thought it was just as joyful and delightful second time around, and if it tours again in future, I shall certainly be seeing it for a third time.

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Click here for my review of the play at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 2013.

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Adapted from a Thomas Middleton play written in 1605, Director Sean Foley has based this comedy in 1950s London, which is a perfect setting for a filthy, hilarious comedy about sex and money, with plenty of innuendo, and double (and single) entendres.

Dick Follywit decides to con his rich uncle Bounteous Peersucker out of his fortune by playing a Lord, a prostitute and an actor, while in a parallel storyline, Mr Penitent Brothel is madly in love with Mrs Littledick, but her husband’s paranoia about her fidelity prevents them from being together.  Tying both stories together is prostitute Truly Kidman, who poses as a nun in order to become friends with Mrs Littledick and help her meet Mr Brothel in secret.

The action was fast and snappy, and the stage looked wonderful – colourful, glamorous and seedy, and the musical numbers, sung by jazz singer Linda John-Pierre (what an amazing voice!) were wonderful.

The cast were all terrific in their performances, and it’s hard not to imagine that they were having as wonderful a time as the audience.  Richard Goulding and John Hopkins (both of whom were so good in Titus Andronicus, this season, also at the Swan Theatre) could not have been better as respectively, Dick Follywit and Penitent Brothel.  Ian Redford was a joy as Sir Bounteous Peersucker, and the two main female roles, Mrs Littledick and Truly Kidman, played by Ellie Beaven and Sarah Ridgeway, were excellent.  The smaller supporting characters also added to the fun (the audience loved Richard Durden’s portrayal of doddery butler Spunky).

There were lots of scene changes, which were seamlessly done, and as well as lots (LOTS!) of very funny lines, there was also plenty of cleverly done physical comedy.  The whole audience seemed to love this show, and honestly, I think it would be hard not to be drawn in and have a good time.  I came out with a huge smile on my face, with my only regret being that I did not have tickets for subsequent performances!  This play should be mandatory viewing for anyone who needs a good belly laugh.  Simply wonderful.

(For more information about the Royal Shakespeare Company, or this production, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of the English Touring Theatre’s production of this play in 2015.

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