After an evening spent watching The Rogues’ Gallery’s double bill of She Stoops to Conquer and The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery in the enchanting Hoxton Hall, I find that I have been too dazzled to make any noteworthy criticism.
First up was a 1920s music hall update of classic 18th century comedy, She Stoops to Conquer. Framed by song and dance, and performed in clown makeup, Matthew Evans’s production of Oliver Goldsmitih’s already-crazy comedy is positively madcap. The actors’ high energy plays up the more ridiculous elements of this farcical comedy of errors, making this Rogues’ Gallery production of She Stoops to Conquer is an absolute joy to watch.
Closing the evening was the site-specific wonder, The Boy I Love Is up in the Gallery. Devised by the company to be performed in Hoxton Hall, The Boy I Love is woven of the eponymous song, the legacy of London’s erstwhile music halls, and the story of Charlie Chaplain and his mother, singer Hannah, amongst many other things. Incorporating a guest performance by a contemporary cabaret act (I saw Beau Burlington perform an amusing burlesque number), and concerned with things like the nature of story-telling and how we narrate our lives, The Boy I Love, is as rooted in the present as it is flavoured by the past. Full of sad songs and sad truths as well as hilarity, it is as sombre as it is entertaining, as serious as it is delightful.
While each of the plays clearly has merits enough all on its own, performed together in Hoxton Hall, they complemented each other beautifully. The tragic elements in the latter counter the buffoonery of the former (although The Boy I Love is not without its comic moments!); the cohesion of the unities of space, time and action in the first play balance the sprawling nature of the second; the sense of history in final play juxtaposes the timelessness of the opening one. One rather old, and one very new, together, these two plays form a polyphonic take on life, love, and performance. Replete with music and more lovely details than I can list, this double bill left me laughing and singing and thinking well into the night.