Polly: A vivacious tale of wronged women empowered @ The Wardrobe Theatre
On Monday 16th April “a dirty, messy, highly physical adaption” of Polly, John Gay’s sequel to The Beggar’s Opera came to The Wardrobe Theatre. Directed by Stephanie Kempson, we were taken on a wild journey alongside the sweet, loyal Polly Peachum, in search of her estranged husband Macheath. Macheath, however, had married Jenny diver and disguised himself as a black man named Morano, in an attempt to escape the harassment of other women. On her venture, we see Polly exploited, sold as a prostitute to the sexual Mr Ducat, and finally caught up in a war between the Indians and Europeans.
In the opening scene we were met with three women hidden beneath veils, one by one revealing their expressive faces collaged with bizarre clown-like makeup. The performance was vibrant and colourful, using simple staging to force the actresses to destroy the fourth wall and create a connection with the audience. Audience involvement and interaction was fundamental in this production, as the intimate setting provided little room for mistake. Consequently, the great relationship between the actresses and audience meant we were much more forgiving and able to see any faults as a part of the comedy.
The use of multi-roling provided the audience with a mixture of comedic, stereotypical, and interesting characters, all of which the three talented and highly adaptable actresses executed without difficulty. Katy Sobey, however, was particularly notable. Her versatility and ability to adjust to any given situation stole the show, particularly in her role of Mr Ducat. Sobey embodied and sustained the role of an entitled upper-class man with sheer confidence, leaving the audience in fits of laughter.
The consistent high energy throughout the performance was completely captivating, providing an evening of laughs and enjoyment. Yet, at some points, the energy consumed the production, and the focus seemed to be predominantly in making it as frenetic as possible. This made some of the lyrics and speech indistinct, which led to parts falling flat and the narrative becoming unclear.
Music and dance were used as genius storytelling devices, the witty raps, rhymes, and songs taking us on a tale of love, loss, and revenge. One of the last few songs was particularly memorable, as it highlighted a pivotal moment in which the tone of the performance became distinctively sombre. This contrast came as quite a shock and the beautifully soft performance of the song by Marie Hamilton left me feeling particularly emotional.
All in all, ‘Polly’ explored a new and different side to theatre and left me feeling exhilarated. An evening of music, dance, and witty humour, this production is suitable for those who would enjoy something a little more intimate and lighthearted.