United Players of Vancouver

Volpone, or The Fox by Ben Jonson

Dates and Venue 4 – 27 April 2008 @ 20.00 | Jericho Arts Centre

Director/Composer John Murphy Composer/Musical Director Jeff Gladstone Choreography Tara Cheyenne and John Murphy Sets John Murphy Costumes Sydney Cavanagh Lighting Kyla Gardiner Stage Manager Andy Sandberg

Reviewer Jane Penistan

John Murphy has rewritten much of the script of this production, including most of Jonson’s songs and has replaced some of the satirical lines with contemporary interspersions. Volpone becomes a Naughty Nineties circus, complete with hucksters, acrobats, clowns, and fantastics performing in a circular space, accompanied by 21st-century music and instruments with present-day topical speeches thrown in.

It's a fast-moving, colourful, and rowdy amalgam. In trying to reproduce the late 19th-century acting style only a few of the large cast have the technique to manage this overplaying successfully. Using the circus milieu also expects considerable versatility in performance.

The wily fox, Volpone (Drew McCreadie), with the help of his even wilier servant and assistant Mosca the fly (Erin Wells) successfully dupes his avaricious neighbours, Voltore (the vulture) (Kerry Allchin), Corbaccio (the raven) (Hamish Cameron), and Corvino (the crow) (Sebastian Kroon), who ultimately take legal revenge against him.

Volpone attempts to seduce Lady Politik (Maria J. Cruz), but she drives him to distraction in her attempts to seduce him. He is no more successful the young and beautiful Celia (Sarah Harrison), wife of his old victim, Corvino, who is too young, innocent and morally upright to let this happen before she is rescued by the handsome, young Bonario (Jacob Blair), Corbaccio’s son. The deceptions are carried on by both generations.

Of Volpone’s household of fantastics, Nano, the dwarf has become a child prodigy in the circus, Androgyno, a bearded lady and circus barker, and only a part time servant of the supposed nobleman, and Castrone, like that interesting commenting character, Peregrine, has been cut.

This leaves only Sir Politik of Brian Anderson to be in doubt as to the Fox’s real character, but he, poor fool, is cowed by his forceful and somewhat vicious wife.

As Mosca, Erin Wells is outstanding in this cast. She manages not to overplay the stylized 19th-century acting, her graceful and well- timed movements are balletic and, where needed, competently gymnastic.

Never out of any of her assumed characters, both she and Drew McCreadie change character at the drop of a cushion and keep the performance at knife-edge precision. Drew McCreadie enjoys his deceptions and quick transformations from invalid to healthy, ingenious deceiver, wallowing in his own cleverness.

A less prominent actor, but one of a multiplicity of roles, all beautifully realized, is Brian Anderson, whose polished cameos are a delight.

If you want a night of knockabout music-hall variety with pelvic gyrating 21st-century musicians, music, and dancing go see this show, but don’t expect Ben Johnson’s Volpone, even in the Naughty Nineties.

© 2008 Jane Penistan