Sir Trevor Nunn returns to the Royal Shakespeare Company with a stunning production of Ben Johnson’s satirical comedy, Volpone. Putting the play in a modern context, with iPhones, iPads and LED screens (in Stephen Brimson Lewis’ sleek, stylish and minimalist set), shows so obviously how relevant the play is to today.
Henry Goodman is outstanding in the title role. His performance is like a masterclass in acting, switching so effortlessly into the supposedly dying Volpone, to Italian salesman, to a cockney guard. He has a talent and an onstage energy very few actors have and this production gives him a chance to really impress.
Plotting with Volpone all through the play is his assistant, Mosca. Orion Lee’s slightly wooden and awkward performance at times feels forced and unnatural, although there are moments (later on in the play) where the robotic nature of his performance fits with the character and the situation. He shines most during the scenes in the court, but during his scenes with Volpone, he is overshadowed by the overwhelming nature of Goodman’s performance and it feels like he is trying too hard.
There are lots of strong performances from this very talented company. Annette McLaughlin’s self-obsessed Lady Politic Would-Be (followed around by a small team of assistants and a camera man), and Colin Ryan’s American traveller, Peregrine, are both genius character inventions, and superbly executed. I must also mention the comic performances of Voltore (Miles Richardson), Corbaccio (Geoffrey Freshwater) and Corvino (Matthew Kelly), the three gullible businessmen whom Volpone and Mosca trick into thinking they are each his heir.
This production shines as the best of the current RSC season, throwing Johnson’s play into the 21st century. With two of Britain’s best directing and starring in the title role, it couldn’t possibly be anything but brilliant.
Review by Elliott Wallis
3 July – 12 Sept 2015
Volpone is already a very rich man. But he worships gold, he understands greed, and he wants to get even richer. He knows that the bankers and lawyers and businessmen in the city around him will stop at nothing to make money… more and more money. Sound familiar?
Our former Artistic Director Trevor Nunn returns to the Swan Theatre that he created, to direct Ben Jonson’s comic, satiric, angry, timeless play. Nunn’s most recent work with us was directing King Lear (with Ian McKellen) and The Seagull, which both played in Stratford-upon-Avon before touring the world.
Henry Goodman has most recently played Arturo Ui (for which he received an Olivier Best Actor Nomination) at Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End. He returns to the RSC to play Volpone, having last appeared with us as Richard III (2003).
Cast and Creative
Andy Apollo – Bonario
Sheila Atim- Assistant to Lady Politic Would-Be
Ankur Bahl – Androgyno
Guy Burgess – Judge/Merchant
Geoffrey Freshwater – Corbaccio
Henry Goodman (pictured) – Volpone
Marcus Griffiths – Commandatori
Rhiannon Handy – Celia
Simon Hedger – Judge
Julian Hoult – Castrone
Matthew Kelly – Corvino
Jonathan Key – Nano
Orion Lee – Mosca
Annette McLaughlin – Lady Politic Would-Be
Steven Pacey – Sir Politic Would-Be
Miles Richardson – Voltore
Richard Rees – Judge
Colin Ryan – Peregrine
Nav Sidhu – Notary
Gabby Wong – Assistant to Lady Politic Would-Be
Director – Trevor Nunn
Designer – Stephen Brimson Lewis
Lighting – Tim Mitchell
Music – Steven Edis
Sound – Fergus O’Hare
Movement – Lynne Page
Fight Director – Terry King
Video – Nina Dunn
Wednesday 22nd July 2015