So you think you know the real story of Lord Byron? Well… you probably do. There are not many revelations in Paul Huntley-Thomas’ one hander, but then, Byron’s most scandalous secrets are public knowledge already: keeping a bear at Cambridge; his relationship with his half-sister; his passion for young boys – all these and more are in the history books. Neither could Huntley-Thomas reasonably be expected to probe the deepest recesses of the man’s soul in a scant fifty minute monologue.
What he does give us is a nuanced, believable and mesmerising portrayal of Byron. As we have seen in the past, it is regrettably easy to turn him into a cartoon; an upper class, wine sodden, priapic stereotype. While the drink issue is unavoidably true – a glass is never too far from his hand – Huntley-Thomas admirably avoids any of the obvious pitfalls. His Byron is witty, urbane and lascivious, but also self-mocking, a little sad, and haunted by the ghosts of his past.
He talks to us of his loves rather than his conquests, of his losses rather than his triumphs. He reads us his poetry; due to “contractual obligations” (said with more than a trace of a sneer) we get We’ll Go No More a Roving and She Walks In Beauty, but he also gives us the sinister, powerful Darkness, “because I like it”. So does the audience.
Huntley-Thomas’ affection for and inhabitation of the character is complete; the odd heckle is dealt with in characteristically laconic style, and his world-weary, cynical eyes still flash with a humour which is almost savage. There may not be much to be learnt here, but there is much to enjoy.
He takes his leave of us in suitably Byronic fashion; “If you liked it, tell your friends. If you didn’t like it…tell your enemies that you did.”
Review by Genni Trickett
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: The Scandalous Life and Fast Times of Lord Byron
at The Lounge
Lord Byron; hellraiser, fashionista, sexual predator, poet, punk. Join the most notorious figure from literary history for a drink. He’ll tell you his wild tales of debauchery and romance, entertain you with his wit and wisdom, and charm you with his sheer charismatic force.
Meet the man who invented celebrity culture in this unique evening of performance, and get up close and personal with the man famously described as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’.
As seen at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015, under the title ‘More C*nt than Can’t.
Running time: 50 minutes
Age recommendation: 16+