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It's Pub O’Clock at RSC’s Swan Theatre

The Cast of The Fair Maid of the West. Photo by Ali Wright © RSC

The Fair Maid of the West, Royal Shakespeare Company, The Swan Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon,

running until 14 January 2024.

It may be 1598 but there’s a surprisingly modern sound track on the juke box and in the karaoke machine… so if your vibe is Queen, A-Ha, The Housemartins or many other top bands from the 1970s and 80s, you’re gonna be in heaven with the Fair Maid of the West. 

Philip Labey (background), Aruhan Galieva, Tom Babbage, Marc Giro. Photo by Ali Wright © RSC

We see ourselves in the yellow vested postie (Tom Babbage), in the put-upon bar maid (Amber James), in the aspiring busker with a battered guitar and we feel their hope and their heartbreak.  But most of all we revel in their warm hearted community that invites us into their quirky, guileless world with wide open arms. 

We instantly love the cheeky orphan, Clem (Emmy Stonelake) and we’re sorry when Spencer’s (Philip Labey) clumsy declaration of love is rejected.  

Aruhan Galieva, Amber James, Tom Babbage. Photo by Ali Wright © RSC

We’re fully immersed in all that’s familiar with British pub culture (mild swearing, the odd bare buttock and wonderfully mild scraps) and its friendly regular (Richard Katz), until news of a tragedy transports us to a lively Spanish bar, replete with flamenco, red wine and castanets.  It’s the perfect moment to meet a very dashing King of Spain (David Rankine) and his fiery side kick, the Duke of Lerma (Marc Giro).

This is a very funny and crackingly original show (despite being written when Shakespeare was knocking about hundreds of years ago) and incredibly, it's not been that well known until it was revived by the RSC to open The Swan Theatre back in 1986 and now, adapted by director, Isobel McArthur. 

David Rankine, Amber James, Richard Katz. Photo by Ali Wright © RSC

The retro sound track will definitely appeal to many looking for a feel good, festive night out – this is a fantastic, classy, modern show which effortlessly blends music, song and dance with lovable characters and a winning narrative.   A genuinely top of the pops banger to round off 2023 or welcome in 2024 with family and friends. 


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