Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Dick Turpin's Last Ride

As soon as I opened the door to my box at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds last night to see this horseshoe-shaped scaffolding-and-plank set, I was hooked.

The play itself is an incredibly clever piece of writing from Daniel O'Brien with music by Pat Whymark which takes a legend and deconstructs it in a way that emphasises the romance whilst laying the truth behind the myth brutally bare.

cast in rehearsal
Played and sung BRILLIANTLY by a cast of five, Dick Turpin's Last Ride weaves together the fact and the fiction of Richard Turpin, born 1705, hanged 1739, who was a poacher, housebreaker, rapist and thief - and certainly no hero. The myth endures because a Victorian storyteller cobbled it together from half a dozen other sources, dressed it in poetry and sent it out into a world hungry for romance.

The characters of historian Thomas Kyll, disillusioned colleague Richard Bayes and writer William Harrison Ainsworth recount the life, death and legend of Dick Turpin. The five actors turn effortlessly into about fifty different characters in such a way that the audience is never in doubt as to who they are. The music, the fusion of modern and Georgian costumes, and the fluid movements around the set are a joy.

I was blown away.

Theatre Royal always puts on high class productions and this is no exception. I want to follow it round the country on tour and watch it every night. I want to applaud until my hands are sore. I want to stand here and yell out to the whole country, "THIS is what The Arts should be about. This."

Go see it. Seriously.


J. Fishler said...

What an amazing post! I read it through twice and was buoyed by your enthusiasm, happy you had such a lovely evening - and just a wee bit green!
I loved the line "takes a legend and deconstructs it in a way that emphasises the romance whilst laying the truth behind the myth brutally bare".
Wow! (I'm american, we say that a lot.)
And then when you wrote "a Victorian storyteller...dressed it in poetry and sent it out into a world hungry for romance", I was practically fanning myself with my fingers. Lord, girl, you do have a way with words!
Makes me wish I could pop over to the UK, buy two tickets, and say, "Come on, Jan, let's go!"
:) Jen

Jan Jones said...

Thanks, Jen. I hope it conveyed some of the exuberance of the performance, but not sure I could do it justice.

Wish you could hop on a plane too.

Jenny Haddon said...

Jan, you had me on the edge of my seat, just reading about it. And, of course, I used to read Harrison Ainsworth (Witches of Pendle was seriously creepy) out of our little local library.

It's at Greenwich next week, I see. Shall get myself organised.

Jan Jones said...

Oh, do, Jenny. It's seriously brilliant.

dawnelizabethg said...

I've just seen this at The Nuffield in Southampton. Ticket sales were slow and a friend was given free tickets. Lucky, lucky me to go with her!
I was blown away by the talent and energy of the cast.
I almost stood up and applauded at the end - but I'm far too conservative! I clapped extra-specially hard though!!!
The animal portrayals were stunningly well observed and, as you mentioned, the cast moved effortlessly from one character to another.
The music and voices were a wonderful accompaniment to the story and the movement around the set was very inventive.
What a treat!
The best play I have seen for a long time - and I will write and tell them so!
Dawn ☺

Jan Jones said...

Isn't it just the best, Dawn? Fabulous, fabulous show.

I'm going to see it again when it comes back to Bury St Edmunds in November.

Can't wait!