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A First in 400 Years for Sweet Sorrow Theatre

Gin Niemtus and Lorna Meehan. Photo courtesy of Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company.

Every Man Out of His Humour by Ben Jonson, the Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon from 27 – 30 September. A Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company production, directed by Joshua Caldicott.

Review by Ann Evans

Congratulations are in order for the Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company for tackling a Ben Jonson play, written in Shakespeare’s time, which hasn’t been performed for the last 400 years.

Like most people I imagine, I knew nothing about Ben Jonson or his style of writing, and whilst Shakespeare’s work is written in that similar old English manner, not actually knowing the play and the aims of the characters in Everyman Out of His Humour, make this play far from easy to follow, especially at the start.

There are a lot of characters in Everyman, and a cast of 10 actors – most of whom play a variety of different characters. The lines – and there are a lot of them, are delivered at quite a pace and as each character has their own ‘scenario’ and ‘humour’ – meaning their personality and character traits/obsessions, there was a lot to absorb in one go!

Saying that, the actors, all but one being women playing men (mostly), were absolutely word perfect, and their acting or over-acting which is called for in this play, was brilliant.

Edward Loboda, Paige Calvert, Micela Kluver and Gin Niemtus. Photo courtesy of Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company.

Back in Shakesperean times the cast were all men, playing women’s roles, so this was ironic to see a cast of females playing men. It worked, however.

In the interval I asked one or two people what they thought so far. One women pointed out that Ben Jonson was known for using ten words where one would do, which was something I’d felt from the start. Although, having spoken to Director Joshua Caldicott earlier (read the interview here: ) he explained that they had cut the script substantially, with the intention of making it easier to understand.

My friend Barbara who had come with me, said it was a ‘linguistic challenge’ – a phrase I think Ben Jonson himself would have used had he thought of it!

Act II was (for me) entirely different. I’m not sure whether something ‘clicked’ and I got more in tune with the language and intentions of the characters, but it was suddenly funnier and easy to understand, and very enjoyable to watch. The characters all became even more ‘bonkers’ – that’s a director’s description, not mine, and the atmosphere in the auditorium ‘came alive’ to the humour and wit of Jonson’s troubled characters.

With ten actors on stage they all shone in their roles. The acting was fabulous, right down to the facial expressions. I loved the subtlety of Imogen Clarke in the whole range of characters that she played. Gin Niemtus as Siogliardo was versatile and funny; Catherine Grimhilde as Fungoso had an incredible amount of lines to deliver at a frantic pace, and did it brilliantly; Micaela Kluver as Macilente the narrator and instigator of the mischief and mayhem, was fabulous; as was Paige Calvert as Carlo – with great delivery of her lines and very funny.

Edward Loboda who is also the Producer of the play, played Prologue, Puntarvolo and Rustic, and played each role brilliantly with great interaction with the audience. Liz Blake played Fastidius Brisk with real style; Lorna Meehan showed her versatility in the variety of roles she played including a rain-obsessed farmer bringing laughter from the very start. Rosie Pickering as Deliro and other roles was a delight and Saraya Haddad – absolutely brilliant as the bad-tempered wife, with the best facial expressions I’ve ever seen on stage - a great character actor!

Catherine Grimhilde and Saraya Haddad.

Working behind the scenes with Joshua Caldicott were Aolfe O’Rourke Technician/Technical Operator; Abigail Halden as designer/choreographer and Louis Robbins as composer/musician. These were no doubt behind the hilarious and unexpected scene in act II – You’re just too Good to be True…. I wonder, was this Ben Jonson’s genius with a melody from the time - or Sweet Sorrow’s?

Congratulations to the Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company for being brave enough to put on a play that was last performed in the 16th century – and for doing it so well. Admittedly it took me personally the whole first act to get ‘into it’ but Act II was a delight!

Discover more about the Sweet Sorrow Company:

More from The Bear Pit Theatre:


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