Set in 1981, Seeing Hand Productions present Ben Jonson’s Volpone with an updated, and decidedly Northern, twist.
The action takes place in Blackpool, accentuated by the Kitsch and gaudy set that conveys an air of faded splendour. An ostentatious chandelier, tacky carpet, and neon lit sign capture the essence of a 1980s casino or bingo hall. Seeing Hand’s design team should be commended on a consistently excellent aesthetic, one that successfully situates the drama in director Sam Luker Brown’s nuanced choice of the 80s.
This striking aesthetic is reflected in the inventive lighting use throughout the performance. A use of blue and red tones marry well with the vibrant colours of the costume, and the use of more ambitious lighting, to signify split scenes, is a risk that comes off well.
The use of a live band within the performances, despite being perhaps a little loud at times, was a well thought-out decision, adding to the overall jovial ambiance of the performance. Milo Saville deserves credit for his delightfully befitting new compositions.
On the whole, there was not a weak link in the cast, with all performers tackling Jonson’s complex language with aplomb. Kate Weir, who played the eponymous Volpone, gave a very strong performance, signalling from the onset with her comically brilliant entrance that the play would be a witty farce.
The dynamic between Weir and Joe Peden, who portrayed Volpone’s parasitic sidekick Mosca, was excellent, carrying the play forward with a clear energy. A special mention should go to Daisy Hayes, who brilliantly characterised the elderly Corbaccio and was received by the audience with much hilarity.
To reflect the updated Blackpool setting, the cast adopted an array of Northern accents in an attempt to capture the Lancashire twang. Although in the majority of cases this was tolerable, in others, accents were hyperbolic to the point of becoming over-done and slightly irritating.
Despite the production’s many merits, Luker-Brown’s choice of a traverse staging was perhaps a hindrance, causing the cast to fall into a habit of unnecessarily pacing across the stage.
However, this is not to distract from the fact that Seeing Hand Production’s Volpone is an exceptionally well presented performance that director Luker-Brown should be very proud of. This performance of Volpone is a must see.