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BWW Reviews: VOLPONE OR THE FOX, Brockley Jack Theatre, October 2 2015

Volpone, heirless, lies on his sofa, apparently at death's door, and directs his servant Mosca to coordinate the men and women who attend on him, as he receives ever more sumptuous gifts as they seek a route into his good books - and, specifically, his will. Mosca has other ideas and is soon scamming his own way into the will, before all parties receive their comeuppance at the hands of a squiffy judge.

Ben Jonson's comedy may be over 400 years old now and the inspiration for all kinds of adaptations, but at its heart it remains an exploration of universal human failings: greed, hypocrisy and ambition. The characters' animal costuming may be a little distracting these days and Volpone's attempted rape of Celia, the wife Corvino has happily offered to him in hope of preference, is disgusting rather than amusing, but otherwise there's plenty to enjoy with elements of farce, Carry On and sitcom all carried by language full of verve and power. Scena Mundi has delivered a very accessible route into a landmark of English theatre.

Steve Hope-Wynne (with a name like that, he really should have been one of the suitors!) gives us a virtuoso opening monologue establishing Volpone as a kind of ageing Venetian Justin Bieber, a party animal with plenty of money, few morals and a growing group of admirers. Amongst those, I enjoyed Ava Amande as a Barbara Windsorish Lady Would-Be and Edward Fisher as her camp husband, Sir Politick. The standout performance comes from Pip Brignall's simpering, scheming servant Mosca, a brilliant comic turn full of flashing Flash Harry eyes and an unerring focus on the mainchance. It's quite a turn and well worth the ticket price on its own.

In many ways, this is fringe theatre at its best - a production unkikely to be staged outside the mega subsidised theatre that can be pricey, but done to professional standards in an intimate space that reveals every little nuance of the acting.

Volpone continues until 17 October at the Brockley Jack Theatre.

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From This Author Gary Naylor