RUDE rollicking fun, Chaucerian ribaldry, stinging satire, pathetic

pathos, touching tragedy; all this and a serious message pertinent both

then (sixteenth century) and now, this revival of Allan Sharpe's

commedia dell'arte pastiche should be a sell-out for the Edinburgh Old

Town Festival.

If you're sensitive to noise, bring earplugs to this rumbustious

comedy. The actors are at hand, performing for the throng, when in comes

The Burgher, full of Calvinist fury signifying large ego, wanting to

stop the play. He succeeds, but receives a kick in the wherewithals for

his pains. Along comes Lord Sack (his name an obscure reference to his

sexual appetite?) who wishes to get The Burgher and indulge his fantasy

as Patron of the Arts, proposing that the players enact a tragedie

depicting The Burgher in unflattering terms. All are eager.

The first production of this play, optimistically strung together in

1988 by Theatre Co-op, simply had not the resources to wring all the fun

and games out of it. This Fifth Estate production does, provoking a mood

of exuberant madness as the forces of art confront the corrupt power of

money and influence. (That's the serious bit.)

Steve Owen is a Holy Willie of a burgher, spitting spite, raging like

an Ajax tornado (his ego isn't the only thing that's large). Owen and

Alastair McCrone (a suave but treacherous Lord Sack) are the central

double-act. Lorna Irvine as Columbine is eloquent despite her

character's restricted repertoire of gestures, and suffers many rude

indignities. Joe Gallagher is the noxious notary; our musician, Cameron

Gaskill, has wit and melody in his fiddle, and Shonagh Price as Lucy

shows great poise. Joss Carlin, however, has not yet grown into the part

of the Playwright, and must create a larger presence around herself.

Various things fly, from insults to half-plucked chickens, and centre

stage is a bonking basket which doubles as many other things during its

eventful career. Don't miss this, whatever you do.