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Review: Guy Fawkes at York Theatre Royal

We had heard quite a bit about the production of Guy Fawkes that is on at York Theatre Royal, with its perfectly timed run to coincide with bonfire night. It comes as part of Chief Executive Tom Bird’s desire for the team at York Theatre Royal to do two things in 2022 – produce new stories with a local flavour, and to be more of a laugh. This production does both of those things.

Guy Fawkes was a York boy, after all, and despite his most well-known antics being much further south, this link provides enough local flavour for the audience.

The production team have created sets, costumes and props that are both useful and authentic, providing many opportunities for jokes, sword fights and the occasional surprise animal (I won’t give the game away). Martha, the only female character in the play, has a beautiful but ridiculously wide dress, meaning a fantastically difficult entry through doorways, meanwhile Guy Fawkes looks exactly like we all want him to look.

The play is part straight historical drama, part comedy, with flavours of Upstart Crow and a touch of Blackadder thrown in for good measure. We found the first half a little slow, with more drama and less comedy, but the comedic moments did get a good response from the very supportive audience and set up the well-known story of the treasonous plot effectively. Add in a band of strange oddities with an inability to follow the most basic of instructions and the show is on! 

The second half really picked up, and had lots of laugh out loud moments and a great deal of campery, leaving us smiling and laughing, despite the ending (no spoilers!). A very enjoyable evening learning a bit more about a local lad and a tale that resonates in today’s society more than ever.

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