Civil Rogues *****
Laurie Davidson and Lowrie Amies star in hilarious 17th century drama at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
It is 1649, and Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads are rounding up theatre actors, declaring them 'civil rogues'. Problem is, the actors in question, playing Shakespearian women, are rather too fond of their feminine counterparts, and the soldiers woefully inept. All of which would be clichés, but Tim Norton's warm and witty script breathes new life into what should be broad farce. Director Marieke Audsley gets the pitch balanced right, between pathos and puerile laughs, with a fine young cast.
There may be a lecherous character called Gout (a wonderfully creepy Danny Wainwright) and numerous attempted ravishings, but there are layers to unpick too – a wry comment on theatre as money-losing exercise (particularly potent in August, in the capital city) and a sense of cynicism at the treatment of the poor and needy, typified by a wonderful Lowri Amies as seamstress Alice, struggling to feed her small children.
The English Civil War shouldn't be this much fun: Ed Davis' motormouth recitations are a joy, but it's a fabulous Laurie Davidson who shines throughout as William Gascoine, particularly when exaggerating male and female gender traits. The amateur dramatic rendition of Romeo and Juliet provides a jaw-dropping, hilarious finale.