Where: Bury St Edmunds
15 September 2011 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews The Game of High Toby. It sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? Conjuring visions of a velvet-masked and dashing highwayman, silken-clad and thoroughbred-mounted? Perhaps dancing in the moonlight with an attractive coach passenger and then gallantly forgoing his booty for this innocent pleasure? Wrong. Very wrong.
[Daniel O’Brien], the nom-de-plume of the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds artistic director
Colin Blumenau, has fashioned a ballad opera – with a clever score by Pat Whymark which combines folk pastiche with a very contemporary sound – from the story of Essex-born Dick Turpin. Turpin was made into something of a hero by the 19th century historical novelist William Harrison Ainsworth, who basically invented the central episode of the ride to York on Black Bess.
We meet Ainsworth (
Julian Harries) defending his fiction against the criticism of a “all the facts and nothing but the facts” historian Thomas Kyll ( Richard Pepper) and rough-and-ready pub landlord Richard Bayes ( Morgan Philpott). Cynicism about all these masculine approaches to the subject comes from a barmaid ([Loren O’Dair].; O’Dair also plays Black Bess in a marvellous performance which creates the illusion of a horse while never tipping over into anthropomorphism.
Then there’s the anti-hero himself. Turpin’s first trade was as a butcher and he cut his criminal teeth poaching deer before moving on to violent burglary.
Jack Lord makes him dangerous and rough-edged, even when being Ainsworth’s character rather than that of Kyll and Bayes. You would have to go further than the distance between East Anglia and York to find a cast which can act, sing and play a variety of musical instruments as well as this one does.
Abigail Anderson has always had a sure touch with the Georgian period. She, with Whymark, movement director Kitty Winter and designer Dora Schweitzer, balances the dark of actuality with toe-tapping vigour. “I do not lie. I enrich. That’s the difference” maintains Ainsworth at one point. Turpin’s story has no heroism in fact and, truthfully, very little in fiction. Somehow it doesn’t really seem to matter. - by Anne Morley-Priestman Related Content Back to Southeast Homepage
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