Watching Abigail Anderson’s production of this lightweight romp put me in mind of those television series and films – think The Tudors or Marie Antoinette – which catch you up in a story of real historical events and people, but put a gloss on it that reflects away from reality. It also helps if you know your Scarlet Pimpernel, in any guise.
There are three performers, who also wrote the show with Anderson. Lauren Silver composed the catchy music – there’s a marvellous segue into “La Marseillaise” at one point – and plays the accordion . She is a Marie Antoinette with more than a touch of Sofia Coppola and Catherine Zeta-Jones about her. Mark Conway is a suitably bumbling and fumbling Louis XVI while Jonathan Peck revels in the part of the sadistic De Rien.
I won’t bother you with all the ins and outs and shake it all about of the plot. Suffice it to say that we’re in the Paris of the French Revolution and concerned with a band of derring-doers, Les Petits Pois, involved in a plot to spring King Louis from his captivity in the Temple prison. Their leader is known, not entirely surprisingly, simply by the soubriquet Le Grand Pois.
With lightning-speed costume and character changes and much re-fashioning of a couple of multi-level, multi-purpose scaffolds, the adventure gathers pace. The design is by Mandy Dike and Ben Rigby (set and props) and Maija Nygren (costumes). There’s also quite a bit of sword-play, very well choreographed by Jean-Marc Perret and Rebecca Moore, with some ingenious use of pieces of furniture in true swashbuckling mode.
You know you’re in for something quirky from Peck's first entrance, holding up a story-board labelled Overture, while a recorded one thunders brassily around him. At one point, playing conspirator Jacques he woos an audience member as a sort of trial run for his on-stage courtship of Cécile, a street singer with hidden resources. Peck, when he’s not being the out-and-out villain, has a gorgeously camp turn as Marie Antoinette’s hairdresser. It’s all pure frothy fun – and there aren’t so many shows around at the moment which come into that category.