Vice Versa

Date 18th November 2021
Society Grantham Dramatic Society
Venue Grantham Guildhall Art Centre
Type of Production Farce
Director Mark Brown & Allison Allen
Producer Joy Wilson


Author: Nigel Hancocks

Firstly, I would like to thank Grantham Dramatic Society for inviting me to the delightful theatre called the Guildhall Arts Centre.  I was escorted and well looked after, thank you. I wish your society all the best for the future and in particular their new acquisition to be used for rehearsals, storage and maybe perform the odd production.

When Phil Porter grabbed his pen and pointed in the sub directione vulgari  with his farce ’Vice Versa’ in 2017 for the Shakespeare Company, tucked in his mind must have been the previously written TV series Up Pompeii (1969 to 1970) starring Frankie Howard and written by Talbot Rothwell. This series indicated servants with wise proposals and the stupidity of the Roman gentry. This not critical of the subject of this play, but throughout history the serf has been the brains and only sometimes the beneficiary!

So let’s start with a prologue! The well-presented Dexter (Alan Bontoft) the serf, intelligently working out, beyond explanation, the escape of all fellow servants. The list of breakouts just about covers the entire cast including the brilliantly funny and randy Roman Centurion Braggadocio (Paul Connor) complete with his electric chariot skilfully operated and his new concubine, pregnant, toothless and sparingly dressed hilarious 60 year old caricature Climax (Heather Butterworth).

All is assisted by the highest intelligence of Terence the monkey (Tricia Burney-Davis) who manages to supersede any other level but speaks no understandable language! Additionally Terence never stops with subtle actions all the time on stage making a background of stage lampoon scenes reminiscent of the cartoonist Giles. All cast members in any production should remember that freezing while silent should never happen.  

Brilliantly played Voluptua (Briony Sparrow) Braggadocio’s paramour, who also plays her sister Drusila with intentions on a more ‘productive’ boy friend, she has, with a very foreign bazaar accent and complete with a deliberately unconvincing silk headscarf, successfully bamboozles poor old Braggadocio. Just to make the story even more complex Voluptua/Drusila affair is with completely thick Valentin (Luke William) whose only claim to fame is his ability to ‘satisfy’ Voluptua’s desperate desire unfulfilled by Braggadocio. Are you with me?

Well the complicated nature of this farce is great. Additionally the whole complex story is confused additionally, if possible, with the input of Feclus (Debs Hart) and Omnivorous (Stephen Marsland) particularly following the over-consumption of alcohol. The caricatures: Impetus (Nicki McKay), Tourist Board/Vestal Virgin (Sue Taylor) Slave/Vestal Virgin (Hugh Butterworth) and Ocadus (Gemma Dove) introduced additional excellent confusion and mayhem.  

To complete my observations of the cast and I refer to one of my favourite caricatures, Philoproximus (Gus Sparrow) the magistrate. A role familiar to me! Gus’s hilarious facial expressions endorsed his character with a great deal of expertise adding total confusion to the audience and his caricature!

I have to say that every member of the cast (in spite of the odd prompting requirements, subtly and successfully undertaken by Gemma Dove!) was as good as any professional group that I have seen in the West End. Grantham and area are very lucky to have the Grantham Dramatic Society.

I would be very mean not to congratulate those cast members who took parts on with short notice some as little as four weeks.

Finally, full credit to the members of the group who are rarely mentioned. They are as important as all the cast. The back stage crew and set builders.  Yes, the set was good and functional. Everything worked well and assisted in convincing the audience which is so important. I am sure that questions were asked as to whether the two windows should have a bit of stone work painted on, but that’s a minor detail. Lighting and sound was ‘spot’ on as well as the musical interludes. Well then that’s it. I am still having a chuckle 24 hours later so very well done.  

Nigel Hancocks

NODA Regional Councillor East Midlands                                                                                                                                              (Unedited)