This is an entertaining, semi-musical melodrama portraying Victorian life around Victoriana themes with fairground style props, set design and costume, and tells of the exploits of real life villain, Charles (Charlie) Peace.
The agile and stupendously multi-talented, Peter Duncan stars in the title role, while Norman Pace (one half of comedy duo Hale and Pace) is crucial in leading events as they happen as the Showman character. Members of the company perform, sing and play musical instruments that are mostly of the stringed and brass variety. The tunes are largely jaunty and fun and help with linking the visual. Scenes are witty and alternate quickly with the help of projected designs by graphic artist, Eddie Campbell, which compliments very nicely the work of designer, Barney George.
So who was Charlie Peace? Well, as a young boy, he’d vowed to himself never to do a day’s honest work following a nasty accident involving a rod of hot metal passing through his leg while working in a Yorkshire steel mill. And so, as he grew up, he chose instead, to pursue purely selfish desires, often at the expense of respectable society people. He wittingly entered the criminal world of cat burglary, sex and violence. He moved, after committing an inexcusable crime in November 1876, first to Narrow Marsh, Nottingham, and then down to Peckham, London, changing his name and appearance along the way. While all of this was happening, Peace became something of an anti-hero and nineteenth century celebrity, albeit for all the wrong reasons.
Running in the B2 auditorium at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry from Sat 26 Oct to Sat 16 Nov, there should be much local interest for any Midland’s thespian or theatre-goer, as Charlie Peace: His Amazing Life and Astounding Legend is a co-production with Nottingham Playhouse and has just finished a successful run there. Sherwood born writer, Michael Eaton, has a lifelong connection with Nottinghamshire and both Pace and Bridie Higson (Katherine/Susan) grew up in the County.
Other Cast Members are: Mia Soteriou (Game of Throes), Phillip Rham (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Nicholas Goode (theatrical attributes include To Kill a Mockingbird at the Manchester Royal Exchange), Alex Mugnaioni (Best actor nominee at the 2 Days Laughter short film competition), and actor of Stage/TV/Film, Charles De Bromhead.
This play is well compiled and performance is tight. The script, for the main part, flows along and is not too bulky. Recommended!
**** Four Stars
Note: Reviewer, Debra Hall, attended the press night showing of Charlie Peace: His Amazing Life and Astounding Legend on Tuesday 29th October at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in an official capacity on behalf of Remotegoat Stage and can be viewed here