Every Man Out Of His Humour

Ben Jonson
Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company
The Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

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Liz Blake (Fastidius Brisk) & Ed Loboda (Prologue, Puntarvolo, Rustic) Credit: Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company
Micaela Kluver (Asper/Macilente) & Saraya Haddad (Fallace, Shift, Lady Puntarvarlo) Credit: Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company
Gin Niemtus (Sogliardo) & Lorna Meehan (Sordido, Clove, Tailor, Saviolina) Credit: Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company

This is a curate’s egg of a production. Director Josh Caldicott acknowledges the challenge of performing a play that has been dormant for 400 years. He acknowledges that it’s "a hilariously bonkers mess of ridiculous characters doing ludicrous things" whilst arguing that "this is a play calling out for a performance."

The cast gives a great deal of energy to the performance but the direction is too one-dimensional. Lorna Meehan delivers her various roles convincingly, in particular the farmer Sordido. However, elsewhere there is too much overacting which lurches, at times, into hysteria. Micaela Kluver brings welcome gravitas to her roles as Asper / Malicente and Imogen Clarke nicely plays her various minor roles and shows what can be achieved by ‘underacting’. Her knowing glances and asides to the audience are particularly effective, as are Ed Loboda’s in the role of Puntarvolo.

This is a very difficult play to produce and would challenge much more experienced troupes than the Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company. The gender imbalance in the casting makes the constant switching between characters difficult to deliver convincingly. The play itself has only a faint narrative line and is probably better seen as a series of linked vignettes, and the concept of character being controlled by ‘humours’ is a difficult one to communicate to a modern audience. Critically, much of the play’s language is focused on the opulence of the characters' costumes; any future productions of the play would be advised to ensure a significant production budget.

Nevertheless, the play gains momentum as it unfolds and the cast delivers strongly in the second half. The incorporation of modern songs into the action is particularly effective and helps to justify the director’s assertion that "this is a story about awful people succeeding in positions of power and… still resonates with us today."

Reviewer: Paul Clark

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