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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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This is the first book in the Aberystwyth series, by Malcolm Pryce, and I really enjoyed it. The book is a pastiche of the pulp fiction books from the 50s, and while it should be silly and completely unbelievable, it is far better than that. Yes, the story is too incredible to be really taken seriously, but when I was reading it, I really found myself getting sucked in to it.

Louie Knight is a private detective in Aberystwyth, in the 1980s. The mysterious and beautiful singer Myfanwy Montez asks him to investigate the disappearance of her cousin Evans, and despite his initial reluctance, Louie finds himself getting drawn into the mystery. Evans is just one of a number of schoolboys who has disappeared recently, and Louie has to find the connection between all the missing boys, as well as finding out who might want to hurt them.

Louie is a likeable hero, and is the only character who really stood out for me – the others will probably fade fast once the book is finished.  But that doesn’t really matter – this is his show and he should be the star.  His character is clearly an homage to the likes of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and mixed in with the quirky settings and situations, this combination works well.  The Aberystwyth depicted in this book is a deliberately skewed version of the real place – it’s run by the crime lords (druids) and there are all sorts of unusual comings and goings.

The book is populated by unusual characters, and the incidents pile on top of one another at a furious pace. In fact, that is my only slight complaint. Because things happen at such a rapid rate of knots, I found myself getting a bit confused as to what was happening, and how it connected with what had already happened. But don’t let that put you off. Overall, this is a hugely enjoyable, amusing read.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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