A Mad World My Masters

11 March 2013

A Mad World My Masters
By Thomas Middleton
Edited by Phil Porter and Sean Foley
With additional dialogue by Thomas Middleton
Directed by Sean Foley

Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 6 June – 25 October 2013
Press night: Thursday 13 June 2013, 7pm

Tickets: 0844 800 1110 or www.rsc.org.uk
Twitter: #RSCMadWorld

Part of the final season programmed by Michael Boyd as outgoing Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Sean Foley makes his RSC directorial debut with Thomas Middleton's outrageous 'city comedy': a brilliantly plotted, farcical satire of lies and lust, translated from Jacobean London to the Soho of the 1950s.

A dashingly impecunious bachelor, Dick Follywit, in need of quick cash and a good time has to live on his wits so turns con- man to fool his rich uncle. He variously becomes a Lord, a high class call girl and a poor actor. Meanwhile, Truly Kidman, a high-class call girl – poor but quick witted – needs to fool and then marry a rich young man….

Sean Foley and Phil Porter's edited version of Middleton's play is faithful to the original text but adapts it to fit the seedy world of 1950s Soho, updating character names and including songs of the time to enhance the biting satire of lust and deception in the life of Bohemian London. This will be the first time this play has been performed at the RSC which has only ever staged four Middleton plays – the last being in 2006 with Laurence Boswell's production of Women Beware Women with Penelope Wilton.

The production was developed as part of the RSC's Studio programme which aims to support established artists who want to develop innovative approaches to Shakespeare, classical text and new work http://www.rsc.org.uk/about-us/our-work/studio.aspx

Sean Foley said of the production; “After working on A Mad World My Masters for two weeks in the RSC Studio, we came to one simple conclusion: this is one of the most hilariously wicked plays ever written.

'If new, it might be hailed as the bastard offspring of Richard Sheridan and Joe Orton, but one whose mid-wife was a naughty nurse from a 1970s sex comedy. Outrageous and sweetly daft, modern but timeless, it mixes profound wit and slapstick, poetics and on-the-nose jokes in a unique way - yet still manages to keep us interested in its marvellous parade of characters striving to find their way to love and fortune in a recognisably fast paced London.

'I wanted to make sure that nothing got in the way of communicating Mad World's seething delight in playfully exposing how we pretend to be what we're not to get what we want. I wanted it to have music - which we know that the original had - because the whole play is a sort of brilliantly vibrant celebration of entertainment - it knows it's being funny, and invites us to have fun in knowing that it knows.

'And I wanted to try to make sure everyone could laugh like they must have done in 1605: uproariously, and at ourselves. So we decided to cut away innuendoes, references and allusions to things no one has heard of any more; to change names when Middleton's joke could be rendered more clearly with modern language; and to 'translate' from Jacobean English in to our own contemporary idioms in those few passages where we judged that Middleton's intentions and humour would be too buried in inaccessible language.

'London is timeless, and 1950s Soho seemed to offer a stylish and recognisable stand in for London 1605: a post war world, where everyone is worried about sliding morals, the position of women, a changing class system, immigrants, and where on earth to get the next drink. But it was also a time when 'you've never had it so good' and when foreign food and fashions began loosening straight-laced Britain, despite the high-minded protestations of some.'

Sean Foley's recent theatre credits include The Ladykillers (Liverpool Playhouse/West End) and What The Butler Saw (Vaudeville).

Phil Porter's original plays include Blink (Soho Theatre), the Bruntwood Award winning The Cracks In My Skin (Manchester Royal Exchange) and Stealing Sweets & Punching People (Theatre 503 and Off-Broadway). For the RSC he wrote Here Lies Mary Spindler (performed at Latitude Festival). He is currently working on a new play for the company.

Returning to the RSC is Richard Goulding as Dick Follywit. Richard last appeared at the RSC in the double bill of Trevor Nunn's King Lear and The Seagull in 2007 with Ian McKellen which toured internationally after its premiere at The Courtyard Theatre. He has recently played Edgar to Jonathan Pryce's Lear at the Almeida in 2012 and appeared as George in Posh at the Royal Court and West End. Richard is joined by John Hopkins as Penitent Brothel. John is known for his regular role of Sgt Scott opposite John Nettles in the ITV series Midsomer Murders, and recently appeared in the current Stephen Poliakoff series Dancing on the Edge. Sarah Ridgeway, in the role of Truly Kidman, also returns to the RSC where she last performed in Roy Williams' play Days of Significance. She recently appeared at the Royal Exchange in The Accrington Pals and at the Royal Court in Sucker Punch. Most of the cast also appear in Titus Andronicus this season in the Swan.

The cast also includes: Joe Bannister (Footman), Ellie Beaven (Mrs Littledick), Ishia Bennison (Mrs Kidman), Ben Deery (Sponger), Richard Durden (Spunky), Gwilym Lloyd (Caretaker/Sir Aquitaine Squodge), Harry McEntire (Oboe), Perry Millward (Waiter/Footman), Ciarán Owens (Master Whopping Prospect), Nicholas Prasad (Master Muchly Minted), Ian Redford (Sir Bounteous Progress), Rose Reynolds (Debutante/Escort), Steffan Rhodri (Mr Littledick), David Rubin (Private Detective/Andrew Skunknodger), Badria Timimi (Waitress/Escort), Dwane Walcott (Constable) and Jonny Weldon (Waiter/Footman).

The production is designed by Alice Power, with lighting by James Farncombe and sound design and music by Ben and Max Ringham. Choreography is by Kate Prince. Fight Direction by Alison de Burgh.

For further information, please contact Amy Belson on 01789 412622 or amy.belson@rsc.org.uk, or Philippa Harland on 020 7845 0512 or philippa.harland@rsc.org.uk

For press tickets and regional press enquiries, please contact Dean Asker on 01789 412660 or dean.asker@rsc.org.uk

Production images will be available from www.epo-online.com in due course.

The RSC Ensemble is generously supported by The Gatsby Charitable Foundation and The Kovner Foundation.

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