The Roaring Girl (I review a neat play I saw)

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I’ve just got back from seeing a play, “The Roaring Girl” at the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I thought it was pretty brilliant, so I’ll indulge in a post about it. Not being that educated on theatre, I won’t go as far as to call it a review..

“A play expected long makes the audience look 
For wonders, that each scene should be a book, 
Compos’d to all perfection; each one comes 
And brings a play in’s head with him: up he sums 
What he would of a roaring girl have writ; 
If that he finds not here, he mews at it.”

This is the opening monologue of the play, “The Roaring Girl”, which could only be sassier if it was read by a woman in a man’s suit draped over an armchair smoking a cigarette. (It was)

On the door of the theatre, there was a sign warning audience members that the performance contained, “bright lights, loud noises and smoking”.  I said to Bill (my boyfriend – chiptune nerd and full-time cynic) as we went in that this looked promising, and it didn’t disappoint. Here’s the trailer:

Trailer | The Roaring Girl | Royal Shakespeare Company

Lisa Dillon starred as the “Roaring Girl” Moll Cutpurse, a cross-dressing ruffian based on Mary Frith, a 17th century pickpocket. The RSC’s interpretation was set in the late 19th century, so Dillon swaggers about the stage in waistcoats and bowler hats, rarely without leaving a trail of smoke behind her.

The stage effects were great. We were in the Swan Theatre, which is the smaller of the two at the RSC in Stratford; seating 450 people. However, the set was constantly changing from drawing room to tobacconists to grim London streets. More than once full scenes (or impromptu rock bands, once or twice) rose up from the floor, and during the second act a short rainstorm broke out. No one thought to put out a sign warning that “the first few rows may get wet”…

The production also made a really great use of music. The prologue involved slap bass, which is a great start to any show in my opinion. An all female house band wandered on and off the stage throughout the show, and provided everything from interludes to full blown musical numbers (with accompanying dance routines from the entire cast).

Overall, this play was a lot of fun. They’ve taken some fairly hefty, proto-feminist literature from 1611, and put together a punchy performance with a good helping of funny bits. I don’t know how many people in my social group would have been keen to come along based on the marketing, but I struggle to think of anyone who wouldn’t have enjoyed it! The play is still running at the Swan Theatre until the end of September, so if you fancy a play with transvestitism, guitar solos and a healthy amount of penis jokes, it’s well worth a watch.


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