Guy Fawkes Review

York Theatre Royal – until Saturday 12th November 2022

Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

3 ½***

We’ve all heard of Guy Fawkes and will soon be remembering his dastardly deeds on the 5th November, or really what could have been. This comedy, written by David Reed, who also plays the lead role of Guy Fawkes, tells the story of him plotting to restore a Catholic monarch to the English throne, along with a band of misfits, whatever the cost. Guy Fawkes was born in York, so it makes sense for this to be performed here and playing over bonfire night.

What starts out as a clandestine meeting in a pub with the motley crew of collaborators, who are more interested in the nuts on offer, than getting down to the nitty gritty and planning to dethrone King James. This all changes with the introduction of Guy Fawkes. And so, the Gunpowder Plot is created.

Robert Catesby (Robin Simpson), is the supposed brains behind the shenanigans, never have we seen a more ineffectual leader. Thomas Winter (Andrew Pollard), a gentle giant, with a hippy vibe, reminded me of Neil from the Young Ones. Thomas Percy (Greg Haiste) is the money, a dandy, keeping up with the latest fashion, however ridiculous that might be. I thought he was a wannabe Lord Flashheart from Blackadder, but my guest disagreed and thought Percy, he is a huge Blackadder fan. Cassie Vallance plays his wife Martha, who initially seemed a ditzy fashionista, but we saw a more serious side to her as it was revealed she was a past love of Fawkes. Jamie Zubairi plays her bother Kit, almost childlike in his enthusiasm and mannerisms, the final piece of the puzzle. He is an old school friend, the one who gets Fawkes involved. David Reed as Fawkes is more serious and earnest in his role. It was lovely to hear his strong Yorkshire accent, accentuated on stage, a York man playing a York man.

The set was well designed, with atmospheric lighting. The costumes where outstanding, none more eye catching than Martha’s huge frocks and Percy’s Jacobean outfits. The addition to the stage of 36 barrels for the second half, must have been a back breaker for the stagehands.

There are some seriously funny moments within the play, with some great comedic performances. Check out the bear costume, yes there is one in this show. It’s not all about humour, there are some serious moments. If I’m truly honest I would have either preferred it to have been either full on slapstick, or a completely factual production.

This show is certainly not what we thought we knew about this botched Gunpowder Plot. This is a piece of fiction, based around a factual event, that went spectacularly wrong, that for some reason we still choose to celebrate over 400 years later. Surely, that is enough of a recipe to create a comedy and the perfect time to see this show.