Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: The Scandalous Life and Fast Times of Lord Byron Review

Leicester Square Theatre 24 – 28 May.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Now, I must admit that I don’t know much about Byron. I’ve watched the film about Lady Caroline Lamb, heard a few poems and read about the scandals, but that’s about it. Luckily you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy this show.

Leicester Square Theatre’s lounge is ideal for this intimate show. As you walk in, what looks like the local upper class drunk is sitting at the bar, but as the doors close, he gets up and introduces himself as Lord Byron.

Paul Huntley-Thomas prowls around the lounge in tails and proceeds to read one of his poems while standing precariously on a chair. This is a world weary, inward looking Byron, moaning about people only remembering him for a few of his poems, regaling the audience with scandalous tales, and questioning the whole illusion of fame and legend.

Funny, shabby and charismatic, Huntley-Thomas plays Byron with great charm, making scathing comments about the venue while flirting outrageously with the audience. He reacts brilliantly to unexpected noises and the moment he noticed twins in the audience was fantastic.

The evening is full of laughs and caustic humour, and Byron’s political views are highlighted, with a great joke about the future of Greece. There are some beautiful quieter moments where Byron’s whole aspect changes as he describes his dead lovers and daughter. The section where he reminisces about Shelley’s death and the ghost story challenge that led to Frankenstein is followed by a barnstorming reading of “Darkness”.

45 minutes is too short a time to be in the company of such a great character, played so well, and it flies by. Apparently you can book Lord Byron to attend your own soiree – that would be fun.

A wonderful show – well worth a look.