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Published on Friday, 19 August 2011

4 stars

C venues - C (venue website)
3-15, 17-29 Aug, 8:45pm-10:00pm
Reviewed by Eve Nicol

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

London is calling and there's gin in the river! Dumbshow brings you the tale of Moll Cutpurse and her band of banshees, out for revenge and taking London by force with a wielded stiletto.

There is a great melding of the contemporary and 17th Century across the whole production. Dumbshow creates a pidgin historicism that feels bizarrely accurate. It creates a great aesthetic: the gin-soaked girls of Moll's gang look like Bellatrix Lestrange has rolled around in a tin of Quality Street.

The company expertly pull in the audience with the force of a fish hook, and keep them there throughout. All seven of the actors put in dedicated performances. It's a totally compelling watch, though the constantly high energy of performance makes some of the more sober scenes loose their impact. The long awaited reunion of Moll Cutpurse and John Popham – groin-fused twins ripped apart at birth – should be a screaming climax, but is oddly the only scene that lacks the furious energy of the rest of the show.

It's still a compelling story, full of colour and evocatively named characters. A real delight are the sycophantic and ghoulish Judges – Ealing, Vauxhall, Lambeth and Southwalk – cloaked in nightmarish plague-doctor getup.

The lively score takes liberties with The Smiths and ABBA, the furies belting them out as a cockney knees up. It is a shame that the majority of the musical accompaniment should take place offstage, limiting the enjoyable party atmosphere.

The self-awareness makes the whole thing hugely fun. There will be people who aren't charmed by the congenial cast, but I was swept up by the glittering maelstrom. It's a colourful and loud show that manages to walk the tightrope across camp and pointed ideas of justice. And it’s a certainly a talented company that can open with a rendition of Beyonce's Single Ladies, yet end in a denouement that feels furiously apocalyptic.

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