The Alchemist

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

Four stars

There is much gold to be had in Gary McNair’s rollicking reimagining of Ben Jonson’s Jacobean farce, which shifts the action from a London town-house to what in Charlotte Lane’s two-tiered construction looks like an upmarket Byres Road bordello crammed with the product of the last charity shop spree. It may be fool’s gold, but the scam set up by Louise McCarthy’s servant, Face, entrusted with looking after the big house with Grant O’Rourke’s similarly combative con-man, Subtle, sees the local toffs buy willingly into their pseudo-mystical hokum.

Those who come knocking include a roll-call of posh-boy desperadoes, a pair of priests in search of enlightenment, a hipster coffee shop owner intent on groovying up the neighbourhood, a randy old duffer with lascivious intent and a Kelvinside schoolboy who’d sell his sister while learning to swear.

All this is played out by way of McNair’s deliciously fruity rhyming couplets as old money and new run up against each other in increasingly madcap fashion in Andy Arnold’s production, which sees his cast of six whizzing their way through numerous entrances and exits, ushered along by Oguz Kaplangi’s matching frenetic score.

Working alongside McCarthy and O’Rourke, Robert Jack, Neshla Caplan, Jo Freer and Stephen Clyde all throw themselves into each part with a collective abandon that ramps up the desperation of the rich buy their way into a faddy form of nirvana. Face and Subtle’s willingness to exploit such mass gullibility may come out of necessity, but as Face discovers to her cost, the divide between the haves and the have-nots exists only because the haves will take what they can while the rest of us let them. The result is a pricelessly funny romp that proves to be an embarrassment of riches.