Droll, theSpace @ Jury's Inn, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
The Owle Schreame
Brice Stratford (director)
James Carney, Canavan Connolly, Laura Romer-Ormiston, Brice Stratford, Emma Woolf
Running time

‘And so to the Jury’s Inn hostelry, there to see an lively group of actors perform some drolls…’

Before Samuel Pepys began recording his daily doings and dalliances with doxies, in the days of Cromwellian austerity, an underground sub-culture of popular theatre continued in spite of legislation.

The appositely named Brice Stratford introduced the proceedings by advising us that the company had only managed ninety minutes rehearsal since their arrival.

Every so often, perhaps only once in a Fringe, away from the mega-venues and their pre-packaged performances, one stumbles doon a close or up a stair and realises the essence of the Fringe is alive and kicking in some wee back room.

It surely is here, where five enthusiastic and accomplished performers gave us, on the evening seen, the tales of ‘John Swother’ and ‘The Honour of Simpleton Smith’.

Without the diligence of one Robert Cox, collector of such material as survives, much of it drawn from earlier plays and playlets that have not, there would be nothing to indicate the survival of popular theatre throughout the age of closed theatres and cancelled Christmases.

Brief, bawdy and, as energetically played here, magnificent, they point the way toward Restoration comedy, Joseph Grimaldi, Morecombe and Wise and beyond.

The cast literally threw themselves into the action from the outset, setting a pace that allowed them to perform two complete Drolls and a Jig (music being part of the performance), the latter suggesting that several surviving folk songs may well have originated or survived in this way.

Although what we see is what seventeenth century audiences would have, ‘Droll’ is celebration rather than retrieval. The jokes still work, and can be seen in any contemporary pantomime, re-played ‘Carry On’ film or ‘Family Guy’ cartoon.

Bodily function, repressed or expressed desire, greed, lust and the other deadly sins have featured in comedy since Aristophanes was a lad, and will doubtless continue to do so. Here they are given their full nine yards and the audience were clearly very glad for this.

If you enjoy your comedy on the rare side (in all the best senses) hie ye to this one.

Times: 15-25 August (not 21), 6.55pm and 26th and 27th August, 5.40pm
Tickets: £5 (2 for 1 discount available)