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Ross Ericson’s knockabout adaptation of bawdy eighteenth-century novel ‘Tom Jones’ is more ‘Carry on Clarissa’ than social or literary satire. But while it may not be the classiest show on the fringe it’s a lot of fun.
In the spirit of Henry Fielding’s original, we get pratfalls galore and more sexual innuendoes than you could shake a big phallic stick at. And it’s done with a cheeky wink to the audience that smoothes over the groan-worthy jokes about muffs.
Director Edward Kingham keeps the laughs coming with some inventive touches. At one point, for instance, the narrator – Fielding himself – breaks off mid-speech to sign for a sofa brought on stage as part of a set change.
Simon Greeves and Sarah Kelly lack chemistry as the helplessly libido-led Tom and his beloved Sophia, but there are some nicely judged performances. Ben Bellamy’s prissy Mr Blifil is enjoyably Blackadder-ish and Kate Mounce moves deftly between querulous Irish maid Mrs Honour and the lascivious Lady Bellaston.
The set design is iffy, the script needs a trim and some jokes run out of steam by the end of the first act. Nevertheless, the charms of this ‘Tom Jones’ are hard to resist.