Review: Bernard Shaw's timeless Widowers' Houses, Orange Tree Theatre
Why you should go to see a public understudy performance

Review: Frolicking fun it's the RSC's The Shoemaker's Holiday, Swan Theatre


L-R Joel MacCormack, David Troughton and Josh O'Connor in the RSC's The Shoemaker's Holiday

The Shoemaker's Holiday is the second comedy I've seen this week that has a slightly bitter edge. Thomas Dekker's play has a far more gentle bite than George Bernard Shaw's The Widowers Houses as Dekker had to be careful to veil his political comments but beneath the fun and frolics it is there if look closely enough.


Two pairs of lovers form the heart of the story. Rowland Lacy (Josh O'Connor) is the nephew of an Earl who has fallen for Rose (Thomasin Rand), the daughter of the Mayor of London but their relatives disapprove and he is sent away to fight in French wars.

Determined to woo his lady he sends his cousin to France in his place and disguises himself as a Dutch shoemaker, a craft he has learnt after falling on hard times. He gains employment at master shoemaker Simon Eyre's workshop (David Troughton).

Meanwhile one of Eyre's journeymen, Ralph (Daniel Boyd) is conscripted into the army leaving his young wife Jane (Hedydd Dylan) to fend for herself and fend off suitors when she knows not whether he is alive or dead.

The camaraderie and loyalty of the shoemakers knits the stories together with that of the rise in fortune and political power of the eccentric Eyre.

Director Phillip Green and the cast deliver a fun and frolicking mix that is full of good cheer. A fake Dutch accent adds extra comic value Lacy's disguise as 'Hans' and is brilliantly played by Josh O'Connor. The narrowing net of his relatives determined to seek him out adds to the excitement. Vivien Parry's performance as Eyre's feisty wife Margery adjusting to the new wealth and status is worth the ticket price alone.

Throw in some particularly comic and witty wooing and marriage proposals, the odd song and some Morris dancing and it a jolly experience but there is that bite and its sharpest teeth are delivered in the final speech in which you realise you've been complicit in a distraction from troubled times.

The realities of war can be seen through Rowland but in particularly Ralph; class divide, snobbery and condescension through the star-crossed lovers and in the King's patronage of Eyre.

However, the teeth are quickly withdrawn from view with the traditional, final dance; the merriment takes over and dominates. Ultimately Shoemaker's Holiday is play about loyalty and love it leaves you with a warm fuzzy glow.

You can catch the Shoemaker's Holiday at the Swan Theatre in Stratford upon Avon until March 7 and it is two hours and forty minutes including an interval.


David Troughton was in Inherit the Wind with Kevin Spacey who was an early champion of Mr W and interviewed him when he was playing Hamlet at the Old Vic.