Raunchy, brave and damn right hilarious! Just a few things that I could think of to describe an evening filled with sodomy, drugs and dresses: all engineered to shock the audience under the direction of Curve Theatre’s Associate Director Suba Das.
Mark Ravenhill’s Mother Clap’s Molly House is a brave choice for the production presented by Curve Theatre and De Montfort University – it’s certainly not a play for your bitter old conservative grandma!
First performed at the Royal National Theatre back in 2001, Mother Clap’s Molly House focuses on the issues surrounding gay life in London, the play speaks out as a critique to our cultural ideas and relationships with sex and power, how we sell sex as a commodity and the everyday oppression of gender and sexuality.
But away from the serious undertones and returning to my opening comment, this performance is both hilarious and rather raunchy. The narrative centres on eighteenth century London, and in later scenes jumping forward to the 21st century. With direction from Suba Das, the play effortlessly keeps in period through the extensive use of costume whilst keeping the staging fairly stripped back and simple. Music and lighting have been cleverly constructed to bring the period scenes alive, then throw you violently forward in time to the 21st century.
The year is 1726 at a small tally-shop somewhere in London. After the comically abrupt death of her husband Stephen (played by Robert Kinrade), an ignorant widow finds herself inheriting the family business. Mrs Tull/Mother Clap, our main heroine, is played marvellously by Victoria Tye who appears natural to the role.
Finally at the end of her tether and about to shut up shop, the gentle apprentice Martin (played by the handsome Alan Foster) manages to convince her to keep the doors open. Martin quickly falls for a Mollie boy, Orme (played by the equally good-looking Thomas Carter) but after being cheated by the local Madame, and much consideration, the tall-shop changes business from serving the whore-house, and women altogether.
London’s crowd of Mollie’s find themselves with their own house of play, somewhere they freely dance, drink and enjoy the company of other men, naturally all in the dresses provided by Mother Clap.
Jumping from one place of play to another, we find ourselves peering into a flat of men preparing to host a gay fetish party. Drugs and dildo’s find their way on scene as an excited Edward runs around in kinky leather gear holding a video camera, much to the audiences delight. Adam Gough’s representation of Edward has the audience in fits, whilst his alternate character back with Mother Clap, the charming ‘Princess’, has us much quieter, empathetic, and watching as his character unfolds.
The double-casting of roles actually works exceptionally well for many of the characters, increasing the effect of the eighteenth century gay-awakening by showing their modern counterparts in full swing. And action there is, tell-tale of Ravenhill’s work scenes of sodomy enter the arena and nudge impatiently at the stiff upper lip of British culture.
The play is truly an ambitious production by Curve Theatre and the drama students of De Montfort University. Although arguably scaled down from its original production, the decision to stage a play many may find distasteful is certainly daring.
Those with broader minds will appreciate the hilarity and serious themes presented, and it will certainly be more popular with younger audiences – but equally, this is one production that you shouldn’t miss. 4/5
Tickets are still available for tonight and tomorrow’s performances (14th, 15th) and are available from here.