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Foul Pages, Hope Theatre, review: ‘Genuine energy and fun, but clunky script makes an awkward watch’

PUBLISHED: 11:31 05 March 2018

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Archant

Despite some good committed acting I found it hard to engage with a piece that at times wanted to be a comedy, then a tragedy then changed its mind and veered off to be a pantomime

It is 1603 and Raleigh has been imprisoned by James I. Mary Countess of Pembroke has a thing for him, so hatches a cunning plan to spring him. She’ll get Will (yes, The Bard Himself) to put on As You Like It to sweeten the imagination of the King so that he’ll sign Walt’s release papers.

Just like Shakespeare’s plots, Robin Hooper’s Foul Pages has many twists and turns. His Maj develops a soft spot for actor Rob and insists that he plays Rosalind. On hearing that he has lost the gig, co-thespian Alex is livid.

What happens next involves a couple of blindings, a bloke in a Camden Market bondage kilt (c.1982), several Protestant asylum seekers and a happy ending which I’ll leave you to work out.

Despite some good committed acting I found it hard to engage with a piece that at times wanted to be a comedy, then a tragedy then changed its mind and veered off to be a pantomime...then a sort of whodunnit. This was compounded by the odd choice of music (thumping Club then Tallis) bizarre costume choices and a random clothes line across the stage.

There’s a genuine energy and fun to the production but the clunkiness of the script and scarcity of the laughs - forced when they did come - made it an awkward watch.

The redeeming feature of a trek out to Islington’s Hope Theatre on a freezing evening with Arsenal playing at home was Chop the dog (wonderfully given by James King) who provided a chorus and a care worn and often hilarious commentary on the antics of the humans. Be sure to get a front row seat or he’ll be all but invisible.

Radio Four and Shakespeare in Love have shown that there are rich veins to be mined in plays about the Bard and his works.

Foul Pages could offer treasure but a major overhaul is needed.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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