Romeo declares his love for Juliet in hurried tones, before fleeing the theatre to escape persecution from the Puritan forces storming the stage. This farcical comedy follows three of the play’s actors on the run, who use their female costumes as a means of avoiding being caught. Fun and melodramatic, this production makes for a mostly enjoyable if somewhat predictable hour.
Well produced and well performed, Civil Rogues is as slick as the script allows it to be.
Whilst much of this play’s meta-theatrical humour is genuinely amusing, it does depend rather too much on the well-worn tropes of plays about mistaken gender, a common comic theme in Renaissance theatre. Furthermore, the plot feels as though it has been strung together as an afterthought, as an act of necessity done only to facilitate jokes about men in dresses. The narrative was highly implausible, its lack of development making it more confusing than comic. Another major issue with the play was the lightness with which it dealt with sexual harassment. A leering Gout (Danny Wainwright) pulls the hand of a disgusted Gascoigne (Laurie Davidson) into his crotch, and a joke is made out of the actor’s disgust at the prospect of intimacy with another man. The script neglects the actuality of a sensitive and serious topic which, given the farcical nature of the production, it would have been better to avoid altogether.
In contrast, the confused relationship between the shy Daniel (Ed Davis) and the actor Hart (Elliott Ross) disguised as Cordelia, is one of the most engaging elements of the plot. The awkward and touching sincerity with which Daniel professes his love subverts the dynamic which we expect to be formed between the two. The script is at its strongest when it reaches outside of the tropes around which it is structured.
Well produced and well performed, Civil Rogues is as slick as the script allows it to be. This play won’t blow you away, but it will provide solid entertainment.