It’s not often, locally, that you get to see Elizabethan or Jacobean drama other than old Bill Shakespeare – so first of all, let’s thank Bench Theatre for giving us Ben Johnson’s 1606 black comedy Volpone.
And let’s give thanks for the loss of the subplot about the holidaying English couple in Italy. This leaves us with a manageable two-and-a-half hours and focuses on Johnson’s eponymous anti-hero, his sidekick and the consequences of their appalling greed.
Praise where praise is due but, that said, several times on opening night there was a distinct sense of actors floundering for words, including leading man Terry Smyth. Physically, Smyth is a great, gangling, spider-like presence, but both he and Frankie Huin-Wah as Mosca, need to find more variety in their pace – they’re both very measured. They also need to be wary of movement where no movement is needed. It all got a bit fidgety in places.
Huin-Wah is a brave and clever bit of casting; making Mosca a woman adds a sexual frisson to the whole thing that direct Jeff Bone makes full use of and Huin-Wah is beautiful enough to carry it off easily.
Mark Wakeman, Callum West and Roger Wallsgrove are great as Volpone’s three victims and Lorraine Galliers, as the wife offered as sacrificial lamb to Volpone in order to secure his treasure, shines.
Firmer direction and a closer attention to detail (barcodes on a 1930’s bottle of wine?) would take this from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’.
Until 28 May.