REVIEW: Virtuous Flock

Arcola Theatre, Arcola Street, E8

Witty, scabrous, over the top, they tell the story of Penny Dreadful, an abused child from an Irish convent boarding school, who revenges herself horribly on her father, the three women in his life and, finally, the nuns.

Billy Barrett’s script draws on sources from Victorian melodrama to Rocky Horror, to create an up-to-date style entirely his own. Sadly, though, lines worthy of Oscar Wilde are sometimes lost in the speed of this production. More variation of pace, more light and shade, would have made for an even more hilarious evening.

Outstanding among the energetic performers, is Poppy Zadek-Ewing as Penny’s dad’s mistress, Marine Marianne Maillot du Bain, who perishes operatically and grotesquely in the bath. His earthy mistress, Fanny Brown, played by Emma Caller, achieves exactly the right balance of sexiness and depravity, and Megan Narkwick is blood-curdling as his frigid wife. But Hannah Johnson and Lauren Overs needed to be more nun-like in deportment and facial expression to convey the real horror underlying this vaudeville production.

The original, live music is marvellous, giving depth, colour and meaning to the human issues latent in the text. If you want a good (if brief) night out which also gives plenty of food for thought – go and see this extravagant play. – Jill Truman