Seamlessly culled from a 1751 quartet of Hogarth engravings, simple8’s ‘The Four Stages of Cruelty’ is a pungently evocative and blackly amusing masterclass in the art of “poor” theatre.
Using not much more than a table, some sheets, a banjo (which doubles as a dog), a mandolin (a horse) and two dead rabbits (er, two dead rabbits), the superb ensemble hurl us bodily into eighteenth-century London, a grubbily vibrant cesspit of whores, thieves, toffs and honest men, public hangings, gin palaces, brothels and stately homes.
Quite how historically accurate Adam Brace and Sebastian Armesto’s play is I’m uncertain but it’s wholly engrossing; when a doorflap is lifted during a shop scene and a hubbub of voices rises up, you swear you could step through into the market beyond. It’s a stunning canvas.
By Andrzej Lukowski