The Alchemist

By Ben Jonson, directed by Robert Icke
14th September - 6th October 2012
Liverpool Playhouse

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

In different circumstances a number of centuries ago Billy The Bard wrote Much Ado About Nothing - that sentiment equally applies to this updated version of a Jacobean farce written by Ben Jonson in 1610.

It centres around three con artists, Face (Nicolas Tennant), Subtle (Ian Bartholomew) and Dol Common (Lara Rossi), who attempt and often succeed in fleecing money from greedy and gullible people from different stratas of life with various make a fast buck scams.

Jonson wrote The Alchemist 400 years ago but fallible human nature has not changed at all in regard to a lust for money, in fact worsened.

It went on far too long, clocking in at 150 minutes - trimming it by 40 minutes or so would have been appreciated, and the dialogue was often too hurried and incomprehensible.

But worst of all, and very tiresome, was the Brian Rix Whitehall- type formula of people constantly running through and out of doors. somtimes barely dressed.

At the end of the production I was left baffled as to what the hell that pantomine-like palaver was all about.

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