BURY FAIR by THOMAS SHADWELL ran for two shows at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, in late April, with a cast and creative team from LAMDA.
Bury Fair is one of 18 plays written by the 17th century English dramatist and poet laureate, Thomas Shadwell. Educated as a boy in Bury St Edmunds, this witty and farcical examination of class and taste (or lack of it) is set there. He produced plays regularly throughout his life and all show a distaste for sham and foppish behaviour; although the comedy often descends into bawdiness that borders on vulgarity, what he does particularly achieve is an insightful look at contemporary manners, in all its ridiculousness.
Bury Fair, frankly, is a delight. The play was produced from a new performing edition of the work by John Baxter and Shadwell’s wry wit combined with the exhilarating chemistry of the cast was a joy to behold. The play follows Mr Ned Wildish (Angus Yellowlees) on his visit from London to friends in Bury St Edmunds and the chaos that ensues as he takes advantage of the pretentious sensibilities of Lady and Mrs Fantast (Emily Carewe and Louise Hoare respectively), celebrated residents of the town. The play contains a love triangle, plenty of slapstick humour and two instances of false identity, which is by no means an original trope, but played out extremely well and to great effect.
I would count Bury Fair as one of the best plays I have seen this year – thanks to an extremely talented cast armed with some very witty writing. It saddens me that Shadwell’s work is not more widely performed or better known.