A Chaste Maid in Cheapside

UK tour

March-May 2002

This production had been planned for nearly seven years, since Ben Harrison studied the play at Warwick University. In its carnivalesque celebration of the human appetite, outrageous energy and lust for rule-breaking, it seemed an appropriate piece to revive, particularly as London’s confidence as a city appears in the ascendant.

The production’s aesthetic was to embrace many periods of fashion since 1613 and to dress to character. The production employed a ‘Vivienne Westwood’ approach in Greta Cuneo’s design which matched the anarchic and improvisatory nature of the characters. The vivid life of the play was presented on stark set of sharply-raked walkways and plastic sheeting. The music by Philip Pinsky was an eclectic and powerful mix of chillout, drum and base, and more traditional forms. Natasha Chivers’ rich lighting added colour and form.

A strong ensemble cast of 17, drawn from a strong physical theatre as well as classical background, created the complex multi-plotted world of the play which involves 28 characters. They were led by Stephen Boxer as Allwit, the play’s amoral centre. Much care in rehearsal was taken to clarify the arcane and difficult language of the play, to bring it closer to our own time. The production opened at the Oxford Playhouse and toured to Malvern, Bath, Richmond, Huddersfield and Guildford.

Annette Brooke, Yorkshire Post

Spectacularly engaging, accessible and successful. . the play may have been written almost 400 years ago but its themes are eternal and this production brings it bang up to date. This is theatre with serious attitude-go to see it.

Michael Coveney, Daily Mail

A great city comedy of lust, deception, greed, birthing and smuggled raw meat, Ben Harrison’s well-cast, modern dress production, set among great shower curtains, is a model of clarity and lip-smacking hypocritical high spirits. . Middleton’s supple prose, sometimes stiffening into blank verse, is a rare, difficult but utterly rewarding commodity, and the Almeida has done it some admirable, revelatory service.

Paul Taylor, The Independent

Ben Harrison’s enjoyable production. . .ribald dirty-mindedness, but it has better fish to fry, too. . .excellent scenes. . .a characterful cast. . .a peculiar mentality brought to vivid life.