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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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It’s almost 20 years since I saw Fiddler on the Roof, at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, so I was due another performance, and had the absolute pleasure of seeing it at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, with the iconic Paul Michael Glaser, heading the cast as the Jewish milkman Tevye.  Set in the poor Russian village of Anatevka in 1905, the story – taken from a collection of stories by Sholem Aleichem – revolves around Tevye’s attempts to find good husbands for his eldest three daughters, while also trying to maintain his family’s Jewish traditions in a changing world.

The most famous song from Fiddler is of course If I Were A Rich Man – which Glaser performed wonderfully – but the show is packed with wonderful music, all delivered by an excellent cast, most of whom played the instruments for the songs while in character.  The eponymous fiddler on the roof was the excellent Jennifer Douglas, who is present as an observing character throughout most of the show.

Although there is much humour to be found in Tevye’s determination to marry his daughters off to men of whom he approves, while they themselves have other ideas(!), Fiddler does deal with some serious subjects, especially that of the Jewish people being turned out of their own homes.  This brought a touch of pathos to the show and I was genuinely moved at the end.

Craig Revel-Horwood choreographed the show, and his talent is obvious in such marvellous sequences as the Matchmaker song, performed by the three eldest daughters, and especially Tevye’s dream, which had the audience in fits of laughter.

I’m somewhat reluctant to single out specific members of the cast for praise, as they were all excellent, but Paul Michael Glaser showed that he has lost none of his charisma in his superb performance, and Karen Mann matched him perfectly as his wife Golde.  Emily O’Keefe, Liz Singleton and Claire Petzal were also superb as the three eldest daughters.  However, there was not a weak link at all amongst the cast, and every single one of them deserved the enthusiastic applause which they received.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

 

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