Theatre Review: Village Idiot

Words: Sam Harvey
Friday 17 March 2023
reading time: min, words

Sam Harvey reviews Village Idiot...


Written by Samson Hawkins and directed by Nadia Fall, Village Idiot manages to tackle and explore a wide variety of themes ranging from village life and politics, ableism, gentrification, racism, LGBTQ+ rights, ecocide and wealth inequality. The show is a breath of fresh air, and never once does it feel too complex or that it is trying to tackle too many topics. It offers a variety of performances interspersed throughout and the level of accessibility offered including subtitles, trigger warnings and pre-show introduction should be commended as a positive step forward for inclusive theatre.

Taking place in the (not quite) picturesque village of Syresham, Village Idiot follows the Honeybone and Mahoney families as they try come to terms with the destruction of their village, all done in the name of supposed societal progress (and the HS2 Line). We are introduced to the setting through the eyes of Peter Honeybone (Philip Labey) whose newfangled ‘townie’ ways are constantly at odds with those of his grandmother (Eileen Nicholas), brother (Maximilian Fairley), and childhood best friend (Joseph Langdon). The play essentially features two shows for the price of one, with the story occasionally pausing to give us vignettes from Syresham’s final annual talent show- hammering home the impact of what will be lost when the village is no more. The audience is treated to a drag show, magic act, cabaret and a nature rap- all of which are hilarious and impressive in equal measure (some very quick and efficient costume changes going on!)

Village Idiot however, is one of the rare examples where all members of the cast shone equally

As a reviewer, I often try and pick out two to three stand out performances to give credit to, Village Idiot however, is one of the rare examples where all members of the cast shone equally and deserve their own stand out mention! Maximilian Fairley and Faye Wiggan do an amazing job of setting the comedic tone during their opening address to the audience, and their romance throughout the play is genuinely heartfelt. Philip Labey and Eileen Nicholas are fantastically likeable and dislikeable in equal measure throughout the play- portraying the opposing values present in the story- one a city boy back from university to impose his own views on the village, the other a family matriarch stuck in her old ways and desperately trying to preserve the heart and soul of the village. Mark Benton shines as both a caring father and a hilarious magicians assistant and last but certainly not least is Joseph Langdon- who not only has a genuinely impressive rap break halfway through the first act, but whose character progression is both touching and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Both the set and costumes are a thing of beauty- the use of trees and natural lighting, contrasting with mundane household props and furniture gives a surreal effect that brings forward the themes of nature clashing with the manmade, enduring despite the odds. Interspersed between scenes, the houselights come up and the Syresham Talent Show portions provide unique fourth wall breaking moments that give us a sometimes much needed break from some of the harder hitting scenes, whilst also helping the audience to relate to the everyday village life that is currently under threat. The tonal shift in the final act was wonderfully creepy and unexpected, and the costumes designed by Lily Arnold would not have looked out of place in a horror movie like The Wicker Man!

Village Idiot provided ample comedy and genuine moments of introspection. Every member of the cast was superb and gave their all! A truly fantastic play that I would confidently give five stars.

Village Idiot plays at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 25th of March, 2023.

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