Review - The Alchemist, Royal Shakespeare Company, Swan Theatre, Stratford

The Alchemist
The Alchemist
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Plague-ridden London, three crooks, and a stream of gullible fools all make for something really special at the RSC.

Some script revisions and inventive costume have brought the 400-year-old play a bit more in line with a contemporary audience, but there’s certainly no attempt to reinvent a classic.

Step back to the Blackfriars of a time gone by and a comedy trio of tricksters devoting themselves to conning the wealthy and witless out of their cash. Faced-paced absurdity and electricity take over this small smoky stage led by Face (Ken Nwosu), Dol Common (Siobhan McSweeney) and Subtle (Mark Lockyer) – what a combination.

They’re always on the move – running about, hanging from the ceiling, jumping in the audience and bolting under the floorboards. A real fast-paced comedy that keeps energy levels rising.

Spiralling into absurdity, every trick is tied to another, every knock at the door a notch on the tension and all packed with that great sense of doom. This play revels in sending up our morals, corruption and stupidity. The pompous merchant, bimbo bride, schemers, fools and the utterly outraged – they all take such delight in their own obsessions it’s a delight to watch.

A cast and characters as energetic and enchanting as this shows there’s good reason why the play is considered one of Johnson’s triumphs.

Brilliant, completely absurd, and completely enjoyable.

For tickets call 01789 403493. It is on till Saturday August 6.