Join self-proclaimed "poncey bastard" and pipe-smoker extraordinaire Tobias Bacon, as he lutes and lusts his way through the Elizabethan era – oversharing about everything, right down to his own erectile problems.
The date is around 1600, and in between musing on his beloved tobacco and quoting Shakespeare, Tobias is very much "gagging for it”. The audience embarks on a journey through the plight of Tobias's love life, which kicks off with a brief meeting in a butcher’s shop with a Virginia Leading – aka Miss Leading.
Although technically a one-man show, star David William Hughes utilises his audience mercilessly to play both the objects of his desire, and himself. The result is hilarious, and had one luckless participant crying with laughter as they attempted to 'duet' with Tobias. The confusion all the role-swapping brings is part of the fun, and as he says plainly himself – “in this show we know who characters are by their hats." It’s true.
Beneath the dodgy wigs and nylon doublet, Hughes really is a very talented musician, flitting between jokes and songs effortlessly. The script is pleasingly silly and skilfully written – a particular linguistic memory-jogger being when he bemoans having testicles as "undescended as an eagle in flight”.
Fans of depth and subtlety may not enjoy the humour, which is a mixture of pantomime and Blackadder. But impressively, all the songs really do date from the Tudor and Stuart period. Whilst some may find a repeated trilling of "diddle dildo diddle dildo" a bit crass, it's nevertheless entirely in keeping with the time.
Much of the enjoyment of the piece comes from the slightly rabbit-in-the-headlights-but-surprisingly-game punters, so it's possible that not every performance will be as great as the one I saw. Still, there was a lot of funny ad-libbing, and Hughes could probably charm even the most retiring of audiences.
Tobias the wannabe wanton (Google it) is an hilarious creation, who makes an excellent focus for a bawdy romp of a show. Christopher Marlowe it isn't, but Elizabethan is good not-very-clean fun. A musical comedy that is entertaining to modern ears, despite using material that's 400 years old: it's quite an achievement to pull off.