Tag Archives: Sean Foley

The Upstart Crow


Gielgud Theatre

The Upstart Crow

The Upstart Crow

Gielgud Theatre

Reviewed – 18th February 2020



“What comes over as too silly, too exaggerated for me on the small screen, becomes uproarious comedy gold on stage”


This gloriously silly romp is clever, joyful and fabulously funny. There are enough Shakespearean references to please those who know their Bard, and mentions of so many of his plays I thought we were going for the full First Folio. But it’s all sewn together so finely that it never jars. It’s over the top and, at times, quite mad.

There were clearly a lot of fans of the TV series in the audience, and I have to confess that I don’t really like it on television. What comes over as too silly, too exaggerated for me on the small screen, becomes uproarious comedy gold on stage. The writing is very clever, and the twenty first century allusions to everything from sexism, racism and homophobia to leaves on the line never jars. Ben Elton has a genius for this, and he’s had a lot of fun with the script. “See it, Slay it, Slaughtered.” You’ll have to see it to find out where that came from!

David Mitchell’s Shakespeare is in need of inspiration. A new play has to be written for the Globe and he has writer’s block. His young friend Kate, a delightful Gemma Whelan, who desperately wants to act, but can’t because it’s 1605, reads a book on the loo. Books that Shakespeare steals his plots from. She tries to help him with ideas and, with the arrival of an assortment of characters including African princes, identical twins, a dancing bear, and a Malvolioesque Doctor Hall, the hapless playwright eventually comes up with a brilliant new play, and the best exit line ever. Mark Heap, as Doctor Hall brings true comedy magic with his ever larger pants and alarmingly cross-gartered cod-piece and Steve Speirs overacts with glee as Burbage. Helen Monks and Danielle Phillips are a delightful double act as Shakespeare’s daughters Susanna and Judith, and Rob Rouse’s servant, Bottom looks like he’s seen it all before, and probably has. The ‘African Princes,’ and supposedly identical, twins Desiree and Aragon, have arrived in the madness that is this particular form of Shakespeare’s London after a shipwreck, and Rachel Summers and Jason Callender enter into the cross dressing chaos with gusto. Reice Weathers deserves special mention for his portrayal of Mr Whiskers the Dancing Bear, and for spending the whole evening under stage lighting in a bear suit. The cast flip from contemporary language to Shakespearean verse with ease and energy, clearly enjoying the challenge. Director Sean Foley, has a real eye for comedy, wringing every last juicy bit of silliness from Elton’s script and Alice Power’s gorgeous set and costume design give us a London and Stratford recognisable from many a Shakespeare play.

The old ‘identical twins separated by disaster who don’t recognise each other because one is dressed as a girl’ thing is further complicated by a ‘black woman pretending to be a white man pretending to be a black man so she can play Othello’ thing, in a dizzying identity confusion. People fall in love with the wrong people, hide behind tiny trees and speak in loud asides that the others on stage can’t hear. It’s all as Shakespearean as can be. And it’s all rather wonderful.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Johan Persson


The Upstart Crow

Gielgud Theatre until 25th April


Last ten shows reviewed by Katre:
Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2019
The Snow Queen | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2019
Catch Of The Day | ★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | January 2020
Little Boxes | ★★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
Peeping Tom: Child (Kind) | ★★★ | Barbican | January 2020
The Legend Of The Holy Drinker | ★★½ | The Vaults | January 2020
In My Lungs The Ocean Swells | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Time And Tide | ★★★ | Park Theatre | February 2020
Gypsy Flame | ★★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2020


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The Miser – 3*

The Miser

Garrick Theatre

Reviewed 14th March 2017


“a joyous evening with jolly japes aplenty”


At 350 years old, or thereabouts, Molière’s ‘The Miser’ arrives in the West End with a revival that surely the playwright himself would approve of.

‘Freely adapted’  by Sean Foley and Phil Porter, the original five act comedy is nicely condensed into a much more manageable two acts.

Griff Rhys Jones makes a welcome return to the stage in the title role (Harpagon), while Lee Mack makes his West End debut as Maître Jacques, The Miser’s cook, coachman, executioner and general dogsbody. Mathew Horne as Valère, Harpagon’s mistrusted employee, makes up the ‘names’ in the cast.

Remaining faithful(ish) to the original plot, and still set in the reign of Louis XIV – ( “the Arc de Triomphe isn’t built for another 150 years”) – there’s a modern spin on the dialogue with many a topical reference thrown in; zero hours contracts, Trump and Sport Direct all get a mention.

A lot of the humour is a tad puerile, for instance two characters afflicted with speech impediments lead to predictable, yet amusing, situations; Katy Wix as Elise has trouble with her Rs, so it’s a sure fire guarantee she’s going to have to say ‘rank’ at some stage. The spirit of Carry On lives on .. !

Katy Wix (most recently seen as Fergie on Channel 4’s The Windsors) was great fun to watch (even though at times she appeared to have morphed back into the Duchess!), as was the rather lispy Cléante (Ryan Gage) camping it up in some deeply garish outfits.

It was almost like watching one of those plays that Morecambe and Wise used to do, mixed up with a bit of  the Two Ronnies – the ‘marry Marianne’ dialogue in the first act could quite easily have been a Barker and Corbett sketch.

The slapstick elements weren’t as sharp as they could have been and paled alongside the visual gags of the likes of The Play That Goes Wrong. Lee Mack was hugely entertaining, but at times it felt like you were watching one of his shows and his gags felt a little too stylised for the plot.

Altogether though, a joyous evening with jolly japes aplenty but bordering at times on panto – Oh no it wasn’t  … Oh yes it was.


The Miser

is running until 3rd June at

The Garrick Theatre




Production Photography by Helen Maybanks