Henry Goodman lives up to his name by delivering an exceptional performance in the title role of Trevor Nunn’s RSC production of Volpone. Indeed, he is so good he risks slightly unbalancing the production: Mosca’s (Orion Lee’s) coldly calculated betrayal of Volpone is quietly impressive, but, in the main his is a functional performance, unable to match the virtuoso. Annette McLaughlin’s hilarious Lady Politic-Would Be deserves a special mention – as does her accompanying twitter account – but this is, ultimately, Volpone’s show. Perhaps accordingly, the production is somewhat lighter in tone than might have been expected: it’s hard to separate affection for the actor from affection for the character and so this Volpone effectively wins out at the end of the production, in a manner which might recall the twist ending of con artist movies like The Sting. Volpone is punished, of course, but he doesn’t seem too troubled by his sentence and it’s notable, too, that the production text (edited and modernised by Ranjit Bolt) makes Mosca’s punishment less severe. Minutes after the punishments have been issued, Volpone re-emerges for his epilogue and laps up the audience adulation. In his final lines ‘If there be, censure him; here he doubtful stands/If not, fare jovially and clap your hands’ Goodman pronounced ‘fare jovially’ in the Italian accent he had earlier used in his wonderfully rambling performance as Scoto of Mantua, and ‘clap your hands’ in the cockney accent used in his later disguise as the Guard. Goodman’s performances, and the delight he took in them, were celebrated above and beyond anything else. Rightly so, he was wonderful.
The seasoning of a play, is the applause.
Now, though the Fox be punish’d by the laws,
He yet doth hope, there is no suffering due,
For any fact which he hath done ‘gainst you;
If there be, censure him; here he doubtful stands:
If not, fare jovially, and clap your hands.