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Reviewer Steve Sutherland finds The Fair Maid of the West at the RSC a five-star, festive feelgood love letter to the pub





Review: The Fair Maid of the West, Swan Theatre, until 14th January

PROLGUE

“Sometimes you wanna go/ Where everybody knows your name/ And they’re always glad you came/ You wanna be where you can see/ Our troubles are all the same…” – Theme Song from Cheers.

TIS the season to be jolly and they don’t come much more ‘o be joyful’ than this roistering take on The Fair Maid Of The West, a seldom-performed piece written back in 1631 by Thomas Heywood.

The Fair Maid of the West. Photos: Ali Wright/RSC
The Fair Maid of the West. Photos: Ali Wright/RSC

The original may be a bit of a shonky yarn composed to flatter Elizabeth I and mock her Spanish foes, but director/writer Isobel McArthur has had the biggest fun playing fast and loose with the fabric so we can pile right in and enjoy without a PHD in the Tudors. Strikes me they must have been putting something naughty in the water around these parts because this is the second show running at the Swan set in a boozer with the landlady as the fulcrum. The brilliant Cowbois has just shipped out, making way for this Fair Maid and she’s swaggered in to take on the challenge of the hard-act-to-follow and, incredibly, darn near carried it off.

The Fair Maid of the West. Photos: Ali Wright/RSC
The Fair Maid of the West. Photos: Ali Wright/RSC

The best way I can find to recommend it is like this: You know how Horrible Histories was for kids but it was sassy and smart and crafty and witty enough that adults could also get into it? Well this is like Horrible Histories for adults but all older kids are welcome. And if that doesn’t rock your boat, we may as well all just down tools, guzzle our dregs and pack it in.



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