Arden of Faversham
RSC Swan Theatre
EVERYONE’S out of luck in this production – except the audience.
Essentially a 400-year-old kitchen sink drama, Arden of Faversham, based on a true murder which took place in 1551, was a pioneering work in its day – one of the first examples of a British domestic tragedy and also an early detective story of sorts.
While the authorship remains unknown, there is a strong suspicion Shakespeare had a hand in it, if only a short chapter, but whoever wielded the pen, it remains a cracking good yarn, excellently handled in director Polly Findlay’s hands, as part of the RSC’s ‘Roaring Girls’ season of rarely performed Jacobethan plays.
There’s no hanging about with a pacy plot which runs under two hours with no interval giving a necessary momentum to the proceedings as wife plots to kill husband in order to shack up with new man.
Sharon Small is a flighty and excitable Alice Arden, opposite love interest and wide boy chav Mosby, played by Keith Charles. Totally mismatched they cannot escape their destiny as they seek to do in Ian Redford’s dislikeable money-loving Arden, who runs a business selling Chinese lucky cats.
To get rid of him they employ bungling ruffians Black Will (Jay Simpson) and Shakebag (Tony Jayawardena) who add slapstick, but don’t get to steal the comedy limelight, with Ian Bonar’s lovelorn servant Michael, and Christopher Middleton’s creepy painter Clarke, both scoring highly in the laughter stakes as suitors to Elspeth Brodie’s mousey maid Susan Mosby.
When the murder does eventually comes it is actually shockingly brutal with blood – and snow – everywhere. As Arden lies dead and those responsible brought to book, a backdrop of waving lucky cats is revealed to remind all there are no winners here – except of course those who paid for their seat.
Arden of Faversham runs until October 2.
Visit www.rsc.org.uk or call the box office on 0844 800 1110 for tickets and further details.