Foul Pages, 4 Stars

By Robin Hooper
Director: Matthew Parker
The Hope Theatre, Islington, N1 1RL
20 February to 17 March (Tuesdays to Saturdays)

“We’re going to get it up the arse by the new King of England…
Thank God we rehearsed.”

“It’s 1603, the plague is ravaging London, scattering the court to the rural countryside of Wiltshire and disrupting the coronation celebrations of King James I. In this outrageous comedy, while actors rehearse, despite backstage squabbles and sexual politics, Shakespeare and the Countess of Pembroke struggle with the rewrites of ‘As You Like it’ which must appeal to the new king’s merciful nature and seduce him into releasing the condemned Sir Walter Raleigh. A rollicking romp full of scandalous secrets, backstage betrayals and lusty liaisons. You think you know your Shakespeare?… Think again!”

Review by Richard Lambert, 4 Stars

Well what can you say about such an eccentric quirky piece of theatre? It’s original, unique, mostly funny but then hits some serious drama with gut wrenching ferocity.

The theatre is extremely bijou so where the off-stage actors hide is beyond me. I’m sure they could all audition to be magician’s assistants after this production! There are 9 paid actors – extremely brave for any fringe theatre with limited seating/ticket capacity, and is to be applauded!

The star of the show though is the amazing sound track! The inter-scene changes have rhythm! Although not choreographed they are well staged and break up the plot in the most interesting manner – rarely do you enjoy scene changes in fringe theatre but you’re going to love these! Occasionally we’re back in Tudor times with courtly Waltzes and Minuettes, and then there’s an electrobeat mix, all very exhilarating! You never quite know if this brilliance is due to the Sound Designer Paul Freeman or the Director Matthew Parker or a collaboration but either way it’s so good!

Ben Jacob‘s lighting is perfect! With a limited rig he lights sensitively to each scene reflecting the mood and temperature and creating picture portraits. The Set by Rachael Ryan is classic wooden style with additional furniture or props that create the magic. Add in some kabuke drops and snow fall, standard fodder in a large commercial theatre, but in a small theatre it’s a truly magical experience.

The costumes are interesting with lots of bling to make them sparkle. This meshes well with the Soundscape and suits the dipping of toes between traditional prose and modern takes.

The marketing materials are quite graphic and the programme states “”…contains strong language, partial nudity and sexual themes”……the production is possibly over-selling itself and not as brave as it’s intention however it’s a zany night out that you can take your aunt to watch! It’s a lot tamer than you’d expect. Do please go and see, support fringe theatre – it’s always better than the West End!!!

Photo Credit: LHPhotoshots

Further Info and Bookings: Click here

Matthew Parker was named Best Artistic Director at the Off West End Awards 2017 for his work at The Hope in 2016.

Foul Pages is part of the 2018 winter/spring season which also includes My Gay Best Friend (9 – 27 January) written and performed by Louise Jameson and Nigel Fairs, Moments and Empty Beds written by Julia Cranney and directed by Kate Treadell (30 January to 17 February) and Our Big Love Story written by Stephanie Silver and directed by Calum Robshaw (20 March – 7 April).

The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
London N1 1RL
For Google Map Click here

20 February – 17 March
Tuesday to Saturdays
Tickets £15 & £12 concs

Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Website: Click here

Twitter: @TheHopeTheatre
Facebook: /thehopetheatre