Review: The Roaring Girl by Middleton and Dekker, starring Lisa Dillon, at the Swan Theatre, RSC

LIsa Dillon as Moll. Photo Helen Maybanks

LIsa Dillon as Moll. Photo Helen Maybanks

In a sly and underappreciated tradition, many RSC cross dressing girls look like K.D. Lang. In that distinguished line up, Lisa Dillon’s Moll Cutpurse has a special place. For one, she is a 17th century girl who cross dresses unapologetically. None of this fleeing through the forest in disguise for her. Secondly she plays the double bass. And sings. And rises to the stage surrounded by a cloud of smoke. If you want the K.D. Lang crown, this is how to get it.

The Roaring Girl, written by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker in 1611, is the dramatised story of Mary Frith, nickname Moll Cutpurse, a famous virago in London at the time, who lived as a pickpocket and a pimp, dressed in men’s clothing, had a house full of mirrors on Fleet Street and kept parrots, bred mastiffs and a dancing horse. In other words, she was like the best of the Soho crowd before there was a Soho and the best of feminists before there were any. The rest of the story is complicated: Sebastian needs Moll’s help to get together with Mary, they avoid his father’s trickery with cunningness, Moll helps Jack – another wild spirit – to slip the taming hand of the law, Mistress Gallipot – a shopkeeper’s wife with the covert skills of a modern spy – has a clandestine love affair with Laxton and so on. In other words, a lot happens in a jumble of a metropolitan city of aristocrats, merchants and petty thieves.

At the centre of it all, Lisa Dillon’s Moll is a born troublemaker come orator, with one eye looking for trouble while simultaneously talking her way out of it. Continue reading

Review: Birthday at the Royal Court

Stephen Mangan and Lisa Dillon. Photo by Jay Brooks

Stories about motherhood and babies are not rare, but still it seems that lately I have seen 3 or 4 plays and films about new or expecting mothers. (And no, I didn’t see What To Expect When You Are Expecting). Most of them talk about mothers who can’t be away from their babies. The one that rang the most true was the new mother who was desperate for a night out. Either way, Birthday, a new play by Joe Penhall, directed by Roger Michell, came to fill a gap in those stories: what happens during the 24 hours around child birth. Even if this child birth is not the traditional kind.

To say much more would spoil it, all you need to know is that Ed (played by Stephen Mangan) and Lisa (played by Lisa Dillon) are at the hospital expecting their second child. Labour has been induced, nerves are frayed, the miracle of birth looks more like a horror film and no one else seems to understand how serious the situation is. Continue reading