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Disguise, deception and downright trickery...


2 May 2008

Disguise, deception and downright trickery…

Victoria University 300-level theatre students tackle Jacobean city comedy in the New Zealand premiere of John Webster and Thomas Dekker’s 1605 play Northward Ho!

“Forget what the polite centuries taught you – come and join us for an evening of rogues, whores and vagabonds amidst their rambunctious rivalry along the River Thames. At a time when whores and bawds were as rampant as baristas on Cuba Mall, the scene becomes obscene,” says co-director David Lawrence.

In this production of Northward Ho! there’s an added twist to the hilarious sexual amorality of early 17th-century London: all the men will be played by women, and all the women will be played by men.

Their advances spurned, Greenshield and Featherstone, two young men about town, set a cunning plan in motion: to convince the merchant Mayberry that his wife behaved “most feelingly” toward them.

What begins as a simple act of revenge for these rejected men quickly spirals out of control as Mayberry, along with the great poet Bellamont, turn their plan against them, luring them north to the town known as “dirty Ware”, and proving, once and for all, who the cuckold really is.

Meanwhile, the whore Doll pretends to be a high-born gentlewoman so she can con gullible men out of money. But once her true nature is discovered, Doll is forced to flee northward to Ware as well with a flock of angry gulls in pursuit.

This group of 300-level theatre students have spent this trimester studying the codes and conventions of Jacobean city comedy and striving to create a production that creates modern equivalents of these conventions, with eclectic and emblematic design elements.

Rather than evade the perennial circumstance of having more women than men enrolled in theatre courses, the students have embraced it. Since a company of boy actors performed the original, mocking their elders, our actors have adopted an equivalent shift, but this time of gender – not only are the lads “dolled up” to new heights of femininity, the ladies are garbed with beards and bulging socks in their pants. This manipulation of gender creates dynamic relations regarding sexual morality, and will provide a theatrical spectacle too good to miss.

Northward Ho! by John Webster and Thomas Dekker • Directed by David Carnegie and David Lawrence • May 14-17, 2008 at 7.30pm • Studio 77 • 77 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn • Tickets $12/$8 • For bookings phone 463-5359 or email theatre[at]


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