Unfortunately, Xavier Leret's adaptation for Kaos Theatre may be bold, but it's not clever, interesting, involving or funny enough to engage an audience whatsoever. Moll is now played by a man, Ralf Higgins. Nothing wrong with that, you might think, as Flanders had many male traits. And Higgins does do an admirable job - but the schoolboy material and Leret's clumsy direction mean that the lead actor's efforts are all in vain.
This utterly confusing production makes no sense of the Defoe's novel. The pantomime-style delivery of the narrative alongside simulated sex scenes involving dildos, shadow play and comedy erections leave the audience feeling rather flaccid and bored. Even the so-called steamy scenes leave you feeling bored. As each laboured joke reappears, you feel like shouting “Enough already!" But then on comes another crude, embarrassing set piece. The humour - if I can use that term loosely - is so forced that you may find yourself chuckling sympathetically or developing hysteria by the interval.
As if things could not get any worse, Arnim Friess' lighting seems to come up whenever a joke hasn't worked, leaving the audience clearly giggling with embarrassment at what they've just witnessed. The cast do a fine job of trying to make the leaden material work, but at times even they look as though they are cringing.
If you're 16 and find the sight of a prosthetic penis funny, maybe this show is for you - several younger members of the audience were laughing on the night I attended. But I really do suspect that this is because they'll never be able to face their English teacher again after suffering this unfunny, lewd mess of a play.
When there's nothing happening on stage, the cast bravely burst into song. These musical interludes simply serve to provide more unintentional comedy, leaving you aching with the effort of suppressing it. This Moll definitely flounders.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Lowry, Salford)