At Silver Spring Stage

Bill Cain’s play is a timely and playful exploration of propaganda and fake news as we are transported to early 17th century London. What would have happened if the Government had asked William Shagspeare (sic) to write a play about the Gunpowder Plot?

Set Designer, Bridgid Burge, has created a simple but flexible setting that features wooden beams in pleasing geometric shapes (surely inspired by one of our locations, the Globe Theatre) that allows director, Madeleine Smith, the canvas she needs to create her play(s) within a play.

Smith clearly understands this two sided space well as she uses the stages’ central pillar to anchor many of the scenes. The movement of her actors is skilled and always with intent – and the actors are certainly a skilled bunch without a weak link in the cast. Shag is played by Keith Cassidy and while his first act performance is fine enough he really comes into his own after the intermission once the material allows him to explore more of an emotional range. Gary Sullivan is at his finest when he embodies the physicality of Robert Cecil and this three hour production is always at it’s most sharp when Sullivan is driving the pace as the cold and calculating Secretary of State.

That pacing is not helped by the transitions (the awkward silences could so easily be avoided) which are the weak point of the production. Dylan Sullivan’s sound design features some beautiful music that really elevates some of the more poignant moments but the sound cues always feel too short, ending abruptly. If they had continued through the scene changes, combined with a little more connection to James Morrison’s lighting, the flow would have been so much more cohesive. This frustration is elevated because Smith manages the more difficult in scene changes deftly as the actors transition between locations and roles.

Nicholas Temple excels in these moments and his vulnerability in his portrayal of Tom Wintour really helps ground the show. Temple is a stand out of the first act but things go slightly awry with his attempted Scott (ish) accent once he takes on the crown of King James. With actors playing actors it would be so easy to over act with much of this material but Smith’s cast never fall into this trap and there is clearly respect for the writing and a truthfulness in the performances – particularly from Tom Howley, another with commanding stage presence.

There are some other issues with the production. The safety equipment for the hanging scenes is cumbersome and awkward to watch as the attempts to attach the noose correctly occur in full light (and we see the equipment on their slumped bodies after they are cut down) It would have been better to light it more dramatically and pull the other action downstage so as to not highlight the issue. The pace towards the end of the show is sloppy and borderline indulgent and while part of that is due to the writing the last 15 minutes could be tightened up considerably.

We can say, without equivocation, that this is a show worth seeing. It’s well costumed, the fight choreography is solid and above all the acting is at a consistently high level.

The ticket price is $25 but as you can see we rank this show at a $32 price point making it good value for money. You can see how our scoring works here

Equivocation continues at Sliver Spring Stage until February 2nd.