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28 October 2014

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Strong performance, energy, satire in Eastward Ho!

Scene from Eastwood Ho!
Strong characters in the RSC's Eastwood Ho!
Our reviewer rates Eastward Ho! as a city comedy for the twenty first century with strong performances, energy and satire.

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Review by site user Ben Whitehouse

Touchstone (a charming and engaging Geoffrey Freshwater), a London goldsmith, has two apprentices- Golding (a wonderfully understated James Tucker), industrious and trustworthy, and Quicksilver (rakish and charming Billy Carter), a drunken lad-about-town with ideas above his station.

He also has two daughters of equally differing temperaments: while Mildred (Shelly Conn) is virtuous and unassuming, the ill-tempered Gertrude (an excellently studied Amanda Drew, lisping and bleating her way through a sparkling performance) despises her bourgeois background and aspires to being a lady.

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Strong performances all round from a truly stellar cast, dropping in and out of song at a moment's notice.
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Ben Whitehouse, RSC reviewer
For her, ordinary citizens, including her father and family are "shitizens".

To aid her on her way she has become engaged to the newly-knighted Sir Petronel Flash (an excellently dotty Michael Matus).

What she doesn't know is that Sir Flash is penniless and the castle he has promised her only exists in the air.

From these somewhat simple beginnings, the play spins and whirls around London with mad-eyed glee, taking in many dubious characters on the way.

 Eastwood Ho!
Action in Eastwood Ho!
It's hard to understand why this play got two of its authors in prison under threat of having their noses split open or their ears cut off (Marston probably wrote the stuff that caused offence).

The satire still bites hard at those who wish to better themselves by any means. Gertrude's desire to better herself is let down by her inability to function as a true lady and her Cheapside burr.

Petronel's desire for a happy marriage is only let down by his wandering eyes and wayward hands.

The authors don't seem to condemn their characters for their actions; it's a case of nits biting fleas on rats.

We react to their bumbling antics with kind-hearted laughter and then have the faint wondering of where our partners are and what they're doing.

The virtuous are rewarded with the opportunity to redeem the stupid and feeble.

Lucy Pitman-Wallace and her design team manage to suggest period London with the most minor touches.

There are also some lovely modern touches. When Touchstone discharges Quicksilver from his service he hands him is 'P45' with a flourish!

This really is a city comedy for the twenty first century.

Eastward Ho! at the Swan theatre in Stratford runs from now until 14 September.

Our reviewers are all volunteers who receive no payment.

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