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A Trick to Catch the Old One at the Rose Playhouse Bankside

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 10th May 2014 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin

Is not a rich fool better than a poor philosopher?

Thomas Middleton and William Shakespeare were the only writers of the English Renaissance whose plays are still considered masterpieces in all four major dramatic genres: comedy, history, tragedy, and tragicomedy. Middleton wrote successful dramatic texts for more theatrical companies than any of his contemporaries and was the only playwright trusted by Shakespeare's company to adapt his plays after his death. The city comedy A Trick to Catch the Old One, now presented by Mercurius at the Rose Playhouse, was written around 1605 and satirises avarice, the power of money and the blindness of those who pursue it.

Little has changed since then so Jenny Eastrop's idea to set her production in Black Market London of the late 1940s works well. Just like in Renaissance times the characters are not driven by noble motives but by the will to survive and prosper. 


Theodorus Witgood has been cheated out of his inheritance by his greedy uncle Pecunius Lucre. To make matters worse, he has gambled away all his money and is now pursued by his creditors - and their patience is running out. Witgood decides to solve his problems and to get back at his uncle at the same time by passing off his former mistress Courtesan as a rich country widow and his fiancée. With the help of his friend Host, who poses as the widow's servant, Witgood arrives in London and presents his new fiancée to his uncle. Pecunius Lucre is delighted and immediately provides Witgood with sufficient funds to entertain Courtesan. Meanwhile Walkadine Hoard, who hates Lucre with all his heart, has heard of the new arrival and intends to snatch the widow away from Lucre's nephew to marry her himself. 

The Rose Playhouse is an archaeological site that can get rather chilly - blankets are provided for those in need - but adds plenty of atmosphere to any production, especially a Renaissance comedy. Director Jenny Eastop makes clever use of the venue by setting one scene called "Coal Harbour" next to the flooded excavation site. The cast effectively use the intimacy of the space for soliloquys and keeping a close rapport with the audience. The stage is quickly changed from "Lucre Hall" to a "Race Course" by moving a few props.

With a cast of fascinating and colourful characters, this production amuses from start to finish. The play has been cut down to 80 minutes and some of the original characters such as Witgood's love interest Joyce were eliminated but this does not really have any impact on the entertainment value of this hilarious play. Stephen Good is very good as Walkadine Hoard whose appearance seems to make him the perfect mark for any con man - rings on every finger, outlandish clothes, greedy for riches - but who has a certain shrewdness about him. Cameron Robertson convinces as Witgood's authoritative and money grabbing uncle Pecunius Lucre, who has some of the wittiest lines in the play. Jonathon Reid is charming and energetic as the lovable rogue Thedorous Witgood and Alexandra Ryall is seductive and witty as the Courtesan.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 24th May 2014
The Rose Playhouse Bankside
Tel: 020 7261 9565


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 4 years ago
    Thanks, Carolin. This sounds like a great production in an amazing venue.
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