A review by James Buxton w for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Giant Olive Theatre Company presents

Tom Jones


Ben Bellamy, Ross Ericson in Tom Jones

Photography by Clare Walsh Imaging for Giant Olive Theatre


by Henry Fielding

Adapted for the stage by Ross Ericson
Directed by Edward Kingham
Lighting Design by Ciaran Cunningham
Costume Design by Stephanie Hampton


Lion & Unicorn Theatre


24 May -13 June 2011


Breeches are breached, cocked hats conceal, and muffs are misplaced in Ross Ericson's hilarious adaptation of Henry Fielding's 18th Century novel, Tom Jones. Widely acknowledged as one of the first novels written, Fielding gave birth to a bastard of a book, ridiculing the hypocrisy of high society and merging sycophants with country bumpkins in a satirical tale of sex and adventure.

Tom Jones (Simon Greeves) is a foundling left to forge his own path through life who is adopted by a generous land owner named Allworthy (Edward Kingham). Yet Jones is a rebel at heart, whose poaching of Mr Weston's (Ross Ericson) partridges and appetite for young servant girl, Molly (Stephanie Hampton) awards him a notorious reputation as a good for nothing. After enduring the aptly named Rev Thwakham's (Ross Ericson) corrective methods, Tom embarks on seducing Sophia Weston, (Sarah Kelly) daughter of Mr Weston. However the uppity young aristocrat, Mr Blifil (Ben Bellamy) a cousin of Allworthy, has his eyes set on her and employs Thwakham to help him have her, while Sophia’s aunt, Miss Weston (Kate Mounce) keeps her beady eyes firmly on her. And so ensues a bawdy farce as Jones follows Sophia to London, where both are distracted by the glamour of high society. While the amorous intentions of Lady Bellaston ( Kate Mounce) and Lord Fellamar (Ben Bellamy) respectively keep them both apart, her father, Mr Weston desperately chases after her, trying to marry her off to Blifil, and thus, secure himself his land.

Ericson must be commended for managing to reduce a novel featuring no less than eighteen books into a play of such perfect proportions, swelling with innuendos, double entendres and puns as ample as the bosoms bursting out of the ladies’ corsets. The cast features a group of highly talented actors, almost all playing more than two roles. Edward Kingham directs the action literally behind scenes and on stage on the Spartan set of chez longue and screens, providing exposition as Fielding, in a black coat and white ruff with earnest professionalism, if at times, a little ropey on his lines. He also doubles up as the generous Allworthy, whose outrage at Jones is neatly conveyed with his accusatory eyes.

Ross Eriscon is a great comic actor and feels like the lynch pin holding the proceedings together. His Rev Thwakham is ruthlessly entertaining as a sanctimonious Reverend who is also a sex maniac. He is so inflated with pomposity you might think he was pierced with a tyre pump, while his oafish Mr Weston in a West Country accent is a joy to behold, thick as two short planks and as plain speaking as a brick to the head. He stands dumbly gaping at Ben Bellamy's Mr Bilfil, mouth agape, and brow furrowed, unable to understand a single word coming out of Blifil's stiff upper lips. His hunting metaphors are particularly memorable, as he chases Jones as if he were on a fox hunt.

 A fox would not be far from accurate in describing Greeves's sly womanising and predatory nature. The injured look he wears endears him to the stream of maidens and ladies who find him irresistible. Greeves combines a boyish charisma with a Machiavellian innocence in order to seduce women and achieve success. Despite his questionable morality, there is a strong sense in Fielding's work that Jones respects women, displaying bravery in the face of injustice, and defending them from the clammy embraces of the lecherous.

Bellamy's Blifil is fantastic as an absolute ninny, whose verbose rhetoric is hilariously undermined by his lisp. Bellamy prances around in his white breeches and svelte black jacket, with the pretensions of a rake but the suaveness of a spade. As Lord Fellamar, Bellamy captures the self proclaimed Cassanova with a smarminess and sprightly gait that leaves Kelly's Sofia crying into her pillow as a spotlight intensifies her loneliness.

Kate Mounce is a brilliantly adaptable actress with outstanding comic talent, and manages to switch between four totally different roles.  As Mrs Weston she squints though her prince-nez, her facial expressions ineffably funny; as she fans herself, nattering on with her lisp, she totally embodies the role of an elderly woman. Her subservient Mrs Honour ludicrously laden with luggage, struggles behind Sophia, moaning and puffing whilst also conveying a humorously servile impertinence. Mounce's Lady Bellaston in her sumptuous gown is a sultry, promiscuous, man-eater who seems like the only truly emancipated woman in the play, though her freedom derives purely from a combination of high status and sexual conquests.

Stephanie Hampton as Molly with her wholesome West Country accent and bright red lips plays a good time girl, up for a bit of slap and tickle in the hay bales, while her Mrs Fitzpatrick is a haughty lady of the court, full of heirs and amusing pretensions.

Sarah Kelly gives an earnest performance as Sophia Weston, retaining a glimmer of mischief in her eyes as she disobeys her father's command and promises herself to Tom. Her character's use of reverse psychology is a good example of Fielding's limited insight into women, in a patriarchal book that is so focused on the inconvenience of female love.

Tom Jones draws on the best elements of Restoration comedies, such as William Wycherley's The Country Wife where sexual licentiousness is the order of the day and I'm sure it also would have been greeted with uproarious applause if it had been debuted in the court of Charles II. Fielding was writing at a time when female psychology had not been explored at all; though it was written a hundred years after Charles II's reign, women were still seen externally, as mysteries and much comedy was derived from ridiculing their emotions. Here women are seen as property, one only has to consider the amusing pun on muff, to see its more malignant suggestion of possessing the vagina, at a time when virginity was a valuable commodity.

Giant Olive Theatre's production of Tom Jones is a hysterical romp through an eighteenth century landscape, incredibly rich in language and fashion. This is farce at its most successful, played with such gusto one of the doors broke off its hinges! A stirring soundtrack of strings and pianos reflects the dynamism of an extraordinarily talented cast who will have your sides aching with laughter. The sheer versatility of talent on offer and the quality of diction is remarkable, with an array of characters so colourful they'd make an explosion in a paint shop look drab. So go and see this show now and indulge in a comedy of voluptuous proportions.


Simon Greeves, Sarah Kelly in Tom Jones

Photography by Clare Walsh Imaging for Giant Olive Theatre

Lion and Unicorn Theatre
42-44 Gaisford St,
Kentish Town,

Box Office
Ticket Web: 08444 771 000
Tickets: £12.00
24 May -13 June, 7.30 pm

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