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1996graeae

'This was a confrontational and challenging adaptation which made the audience face up to the constructions of ability and disability in Volpone. This was particularly the case in the many moments where broad slapstick was deployed by the performers: for example in the very funny, very physically vigorous administering of an enema to Volpone, played by Nabil Shaban, the founder of Graeae. Shaban's first entrance was also one of the most memorable moments of the production. The audience saw what looked like a small bundle of rags carried onstage; suddenly the bundle burst into life, the face and torso of Shaban emerged, and the audience laughed but were quite clearly shocked.

Shock quality was was also predominant in the main publicity photo for the production which showed Shaban nearly naked except for leather harness, ankle straps and chains, with money stuffed between his bare skin and the leather. Shaban's Volpone laughed and snarled his way through the play, his gravelly voice setting the tone for the whole production.

The brilliant deaf actor Neil Fox, made up with a stark white face and shaved bald head, played both Lady Pol (red apron/dress) and Celia (beige apron/dress). In the part of Celia, Fox was intensely moving. This Celia had to suffer being masturbated by Volpone (whose active sexuality was very much stressed), and Celia was seen to bleed from the experience. In this radically adapted version of the play, Corvino was yet to marry Celia, and Corbaccio was her father.

The play was cut for six performers and a sign language interpreter (who often got involved in the melees onstage). The doubling was sometimes confusing. [...] Despite the title of the production, Flesh Fly, there was not much focus on Mosca - and one reason the fly was upstaged by the fox was because of an onstage joke at the expense of contemporary art: one of Volpone's acquisitions, conspicuously displayed, was a framed fox in formaldehyde. Apart from this extravagance, the set design was simple and effective, as might be expected of a touring production, and consisted of three arches, two of which were movable, positioned across the back of the stage. All costumes were designed to create a relentless focus on the performers' bodies, whilst simultaneously evoking a whiff of the Renaissance. A lot of text was cut, and a lot of music was added; but in its uncompromising confrontation of the audience, this production seemed very Jonsonian.'

Elizabeth Schafer, RORD 36 (1997), 113-5