VOLPONE may have been penned over 400 years ago but Ben Jonson’s biting satire on greed and lust certainly lends itself to our times.
And while it hardly needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, former RSC artistic director Trevor Nunn – on his return to Stratford – together with writer Ranjit Bolt and set designer Stephen Brimson Lewis, have crafted a radical re-working which is bold and brash, but more importantly, thoroughly entertaining.
The set is clinical, looking rather like a Damian Hurst art installation; the budget, the Euro, and even nanotechnology get slipped in among contemporary references; and there is song and dance, with a little rapping to boot.
But Nunn maintains the rich poetic heart of Jonson’s play even if it’s been shaved here and there to keep it around three hours.
What do you when you already have everything money can buy? In Volpone’s case he has some wicked fun at the expense of others; others who want it all, and who want it now, which makes them rather easy pickings.
The beating heart of this production is Henry Goodman who revels in the title-role, from his dribbling faked deathbed to the malapropism mountebank Scoto.
He is more than ably backed by his slippery assistant Orion Lee, and some experienced heads as the three gullible fortune-hoping businessmen Voltore (Miles Richardson), Corbaccio (Geoffrey Freshwater), and Corvino (Matthew Kelly).
Annette McLaughlin’s WAGish Lady Politic Would-Be and Steven Pacey as her twitish husband Sir Politic are also the bringers of much mirth.
“What a rare punishment / Is avarice to itself,” says Volpone. Four centuries later and we appear none the wiser.
Volpone runs until September 12. Visit www.rsc.org for tickets and further details.