If you’ve ever chuckled at 80s sit-com Blackadder (or indeed got most of your history from its somewhat unreliable scenes of derring-do) Tim Barrow’s uproarious two-hander should appeal.
Scot James VI has been appointed King of England, and it’s safe to say, Scotland won’t miss him- he’s a pompous arse. Jimmy Chisholm as the unloved bear sits in his chamber, smug in the knowledge that it’s not his fault Britain is on its knees. He’s not blaming it on sunshine,moonlight,ye olde hedonistic times… he’s blaming it on the bankers.
And when idiot savant henchman William (Gavin Jon Wright) appears, in his own sweetly gormless way, he’s got a few home truths for the king. Wine loosens the young lad’s tongue, and a battle of wills ensues. James may have the education, but William sees his corruption for what it is. And as he posits an alternative land with equal distribution of wealth and no monarchy, James- feckless, manipulative bastard that he is- reminds him he could be beheaded.
The laughs come bawdily, and pointedly too. All the king’s men may be in brothels or bars, but William represents the Everyman, who wants to make a way for himself, and settle down with the lovely kitchen maid.
Barrow’s play may be little more than thinly veiled rants on the system which keeps the little man down, but what a rant, weighted by two wonderful performances. Wright’s comic physicality is almost Keaton-esque, and Chisholm finds a way to make the audience root for this miasma of hypocrisy in robes- even with his bedroom indiscretions and tax avoidance schemes, there is a vulnerable little boy underneath.
Tax scams? Too much power?
Couldn’t happen nowadays…
Reviewed at Glasgow’s Oran Mor.
At Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, from April 4th.