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The Knight of the Burning Pestle

  • Theatre, Drama
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. © Alastair Muir
    © Alastair Muir

    Matthew Needham (Rafe), Brendon O'Hea (Host) and Dean Nolan (George)

  2. © Alastair Muir
    © Alastair Muir

    Pauline McLynn (Citizen's Wife)

  3. © Alastair Muir
    © Alastair Muir

    Matthew Needham (Rafe) and Dean Nolan (George)

  4. © Alastair Muir
    © Alastair Muir

    Paul Ryder (Old Merrythought) and Samuel Hargreaves (Boy)

  5. © Alastair Muir
    © Alastair Muir

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

'The Knight of the Burning Pestle' returns to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as part of its second season in December 2014. Dates, times, prices TBC

Francis Beaumont’s rabble-rousing 1607 meta-farce ‘The Knight of the Burning Pestle’ should be perfect programing for the Globe’s swish new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Globe higher ups have expressed ambivalence about the elitist nature of the Jacobean theatres the Wanamaker is modelled on – historically they were for posh folk only - and this return to the rough’n’tumble values of the main outdoor theatre is the antidote to all that.

We’re gathered to see ‘The London Merchant’, a jaw-achingly tedious romance written about London’s elite, for London’s elite. But oo’s that in the front row? It’s only Phil Daniels and Pauline McLynn, a couple of mucky proles bored with what they see and not afraid to say so. Within a couple of minutes and much to the company’s annoyance, the duo have forcibly installed their apprentice Rafe in the play in the guise of the titular knight, here to spice things up by smiting monsters and so forth.

Adele Thomas’s production is awash with funny moments, from Matthew Needham’s gormless hero and his equally inept henchmen to Paul Rider’s scene-stealingly brilliant turn as Merrythought, an infuriatingly optimistic old souse who insists on singing about everything he sees and does, a sort of cross between Falstaff and the minstrel from ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.

But Thomas seems unsure of the complicated, candlelit room. The action lumbers on for three hours without ever really reaching farce velocity; the lights glare distractingly at practically daylight level throughout; and to put it bluntly, the disconnect between the vignette-like scenes is such that it’s often incredibly hard to work out what the hell is going on.

It’s still a larf and it’s still a pleasure simply to be in this gorgeous new venue, but if you’re hoping for some sort of ruthlessly drilled seventeenth-century ‘Noises Off’, this bawdy sprawl ain’t it.


Runs 3hrs
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