Friday, 7 March 2014

The Knight of The Burning Pestle

Giles Cooper as Michael, Dennis Herdman as Tim, Matthew Needham as Rafe, Hannah McPake as Mistress Merrythought and Dean Nolan as George. pic credit Alastair Muir

Pauline McLynn as The grocer’s wife. pic credit Alastair Muir


SITTING in the intimate surroundings of the newly opened Sam Wanamaker Theatre on Bankside it's hard not to be enveloped in a warm cosy glow.
Lit entirely by candles and with cushioned benches the theatre is really quite beautiful.
It also appears much smaller when it is packed with people. But this is by no means a bad thing. In fact it makes it all the more interesting because the audience is so close to the action.
Indeed in its latest production, Knight Of The Burning Pestle, some of the actors are even sitting amongst the audience.
Written by Francis Beaumont in about 1607 it is the second play to be staged at the new theatre and is a glorious three-hour fun fest.
A play within a play, it features a 14-strong cast led by Phil Daniels and Pauline McLynn who are the grocer and his wife.
The pair are at the theatre with their son Rafe (Matthew Needham) but they don't like what's being staged so they demand something different - and starring their son.
This as you can imagine goes down like a lead balloon amongst the actors but the couple persists and soon Rafe is on the stage playing a Knight errant saving damsels in distress, fighting knaves and getting involved in all sorts of other capers.
What follows is an hilarious romp with plenty of thrills and spills, mock fights, a lot of clambering into and over the audience and some fantastic chases through and around the theatre.
The cast is great and Phil Daniels and Pauline McLynn are fantastic as the grocer and his wife, constantly interrupting the proceedings, chatting to the audience, offering them liquorice and generally making a comic nuisance of themselves.
Elsewhere Dennis Herdman as Tim and Dean Nolan as George provide much of the other comedic moments as the hapless stage hands who get roped into helping Rafe.
At three hours it's a tad long but it's great fun and well worth seeing.

The Knight Of The Burning Pestle is on at the Sam Wanamaker Theatre, Bankside until March 30. Tickets from £10. Call the box office on 020 7401 9919.

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