Review: Epicoene

A modern interpretation of a 16th century comedy

Trigger warning: mention of violence, sexual assault

It is no easy task adapting a Renaissance play to the current time period, especially in this scenario where our ideas of gender are tested, and the relationship between masculinity and femininity is discussed. I am always hesitant when it comes to adaptations, and often find them to feel forced, unsuccessful in their attempt to show their relevance and justify their existence. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how well and effortless Epicoene managed to make this transition from the 1600s to current day. From casting, costumes and acting, to stage design and music choices, the play felt more like a product inspired by the original text, rather than an interpretation of it.

The story begins when Morose (Rob Monteiro), a rich, irritable, and quiet-obsessed old man, decides to find a wife, and by doing so disinherit his nephew, Dauphine (Michael Iorchir). This decision does not sit lightly with Dauphine’s friends Truewit (Esther Welbrock) and Cleirmont (Joe Orrell), who together with him, devise a plan to bring Morose a quiet and obedient wife, his perfect match. Why and how they use this woman to get to the wealth, you will have to watch and find out.

Before the actors come on the stage, the audience recognises the familiar tune of what has often been referenced on the internet as “The Andrew Tate song”. Truewit and Cleirmont sit at the table with microphones, and the screen goes halfway down. A Minecraft parkour video is played at the top, below it a discussion on gender and gender roles in society happens. Absurd, accurate, and somewhat frightening representation of how political, societal and moral discussions are consumed nowadays.

Image credits: Charlotte Conybeare

The play starts off packed with misogynistic and degrading comments of what an “ideal” woman should be, which unfortunately doesn’t feel strange, it feels like what I see in the media every day. It goes from comments, to hate, and ultimately, violence against women. The caricature nature of the characters made it possible for the audience to be simultaneously disgusted by their behaviour and laugh at many jokes in this comedy.

I quite enjoyed how the ideas of gender were tested throughout the play. Through actors of different genders portraying different or same genders to traditionally masculine and feminine behaviour exhibited by almost all characters. By the end, the show had me questioning why gender even existed as a concept, as it didn’t seem to tell me much about someone’s personality.

What makes a modern interpretation believable is the right amount of references to modern day, which were brilliantly achieved through music choices that played in between the scenes, stage and costume design. The party scene had no mention of celebrities, but the use of masks managed to ground us in the current times while conveying the show’s message.

Image credits: Charlotte Conybeare

The play came together thanks to the exceptional cast who I had full trust in during the show. Rob Monterio’s portrayal of both a woman and Morose provided comedic relief when needed, and showed the audience how someone can command a room only if the room wants to be commanded. The descent into madness that occurs can be followed through the deterioration of Morose which Rob made believable and funny. Esther Welbrock’s range throughout the play only becomes apparent upon reflection of everything that has happened since the first scene. The body language and facial expressions made the character whole, and I managed to be both grossed out by Truewit’s behaviour and laugh at his jokes. How, I don’t know. Eliza Harrison shifted between her character’s (La Foole/Mistress Otter/Second Woman) seamlessly, while maintaining a presence on the stage that was attention-grabbing.

Overall, the show was thought-provoking and enjoyable. A lot of the jokes landed really well with the audience, and while starting serious conversations, the play still had a lighthearted feel to it. The time flew by, especially the first act. I think we could all use a break from revision and a night of laughter, and what better way than a well done comedy.


Epicoene is running from Tuesday 30th of April until Saturday 4th of May in the ADC Theatre. Book your tickets here.

Feature image credits: Michael Elizabeth

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