Mini-review – Civil Rogues – Pleasance Theater (London)

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Let’s be honest: Civil Rogues is not Wolf Hall. It’s a comic look at a bitter period in English history where theater was crushed flat and people spent a lot of time killing each other (an obvious choice, yes?). The destruction of the rich theatrical ecology of the Elizabethan period was one of many of Cromwell’s goals: and, actually, it was something I’d not seen on stage before, so it had the interest of novelty. And the whole thing seems done a bit hastily and without a whole lot of effort being made in the historical accuracy vein under what I assume were the pressures of getting this puppy on the road in time for Edinburgh. God knows they skipped making any sort of proper ending!

On the other hand, this bizarre hybrid of Shakespeare in Love and The Play That Goes Wrong shares the raw love of the theater that powers both of those plays, and, combined with the rather powerful acting of most of the cast (the three “skirt” actors were all rather impressive), I found myself feeling forgiving about a certain sloppiness in the script and a lack of discipline in the language. The characters were genuinely engaging, the use of Shakespeare to move the plot forward entirely plausible, and we had to just agree that the plot only existed to create an excuse for the play in general to happen and had no relationship to reality. End result: totally enjoyable theater, affordably priced, with lots of laughs. Yeah, sure, it had a whiff of amateurism/fringeishness to it, but with an 80 minute run time, I found it called for more praise than forgiveness.

(This review is for a show that took place on Friday, September 5, 2014. It only runs through the 7th so get your booty over there.)

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