Pros: Paul Huntley-Thomas puts in a believable performance as a down at heel, drunken Lord Byron and delivers some of the man’s poetry well.
Cons: Without much plot to speak off, the show doesn’t really go anywhere; it seems to be more of a cross between a history lesson and stand up in historical costume.
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know – the Scandalous Life and Fast Times of Lord Byron, as the full title of this play goes, is a one man show with actor Paul Huntley-Thomas playing Lord Byron. Huntley-Thomas was already sitting at the bar as I entered the little underground lounge at the Leicester Square Theatre, so I knew immediately that this was likely to be quite an intimate performance.
As soon as we were all seated, Lord Byron came onto stage, clutching a bottle of wine and staggering around a little, before picking up a dog-eared copy of his Selected Poems and reciting some of his favourite works. Over the course of the 45-minute performance, Byron informs us of some of his most well-known exploits, including his multiple sexual liaisons, having a child with his half-sister, his close relationship with Percy and Mary Shelley and their holiday abroad which saw Mary pen Frankenstein.
The performance is somewhat immersive, with the lines all being delivered to the audience as if we are new acquaintances. There’s also some direct interaction with audience members, such as the kissing of hands and a few lewd, Byron-esque comments. Occasionally, Byron would stand up on a chair in front of the audience and recite some (or all) of a well-known poem too.
I felt that the show was a little disjointed, and I was never sure where it going or when it might end. Essentially it was a bit like a history or English literature lesson; it actually reminded me a little of the TV show Drunk Histories. Huntley-Thomas is in period costume and the set seems period too (there’s a chair, some clothing hung on pegs and a chez-lounge), although, according to the actor himself, it had been left there from the show before! Without changes in lighting or any music, the whole performance rests on the skill of the actor and the script, which was just about interesting enough to retain my attention for the duration of the 45-minute show.
Devised By: Mary Swan and Paul Huntley-Thomas
Producer: Proteus Theatre
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.