Dancing between impressive, accomplished musicality and bawdy ribaldry, David William Hughes’ one man show ‘Elizabethan’ re-infuses original early modern compositions with the humour and context they deserve. Songs which are too often relegated to formal concert halls and stony faced choristers are given a new life when sung by ‘Tobias Bacon’ with a knowing wink, artful lute playing, and bard-like charm, in order to woo a triptych of lovers.
“impressive, accomplished musicality and bawdy ribaldry”
This piece of new writing balances a historically grounded understanding of authentic performances of Renaissance music with acerbic wit and tongue-in-cheek comedic reflexes. It is extremely pleasing as an audience member to be assured that each and every piece played throughout the show has been handpicked from Renaissance musical repertoires. We are treated to that which Hughes frames as a cheeky proto-capitalist advertisement for ‘Tobacco’ [Tobias Hume] and dildos [Thomas Morley, 1600], as well as a genuinely moving rendition of John Dowland’s “Flow my tears”, and several love songs which required the audience to participate with gusto. Anyone offended by the ensuing bawd must, Hughes reminds us, direct their complaint to Shakespeare, William., “Hole in the ground”, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon.
Hughes’ truly impressive vocal range allows him to deftly flit between naive, love-stricken knaves, blushing maids, and brash seductresses at the flick of a wig. He was very quick to win the audience over and invite them to chip in both on and off stage to advance the plot. There were some particularly song-dense moments around 40 minutes in, where some less musically versed viewers may have switched off, or lost a little momentum. Nevertheless, the audience volunteers to which Hughes sang (adorned with various props) provided a light-hearted counterbalance, injecting energy into these latter scenes.
Whether you come for the music (executed masterfully), the promise of scholarly puns a-plenty (literature students, get your thinking caps on), or you are simply seeking some genuinely funny character comedy, there is something for everyone at ‘Elizabethan’.
Elizabethan is performing at theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall until August 25th, tickets can be purchased here.
Image: David William Hughes
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