Which was good, because it was brilliant. Enormously silly – well, a play effectively titled “The Knight with the Painfully Diseased Dick” is pretty much guaranteed to be that* - engaging and entertaining from start to finish, which is impressive when it’s 3 hours on not entirely comfy seats with limited leg-room and a bit of a draught to ensure the candles keep burning upwards. I was in the tier level with the stage, but just along from it, which meant I got a good bit of actorly eye-contact without the requirement for noticeable participation, which was for the best.
Not-too-long version of the plot: A bunch of actors are putting on a bog-standard romance/city comedy about a rich merchant who wants his daughter to marry the wrong man, while she is in love with the young hero. This is interrupted by a grocer and his wife in the audience who are fed up of seeing plays that take the piss out of them, and want one with a “grocer errant” and shove their apprentice up on stage to act the part of an English Don Quixote. The play proceeds to take the piss out of ye generic play, ye middle classes, ye authorities, and chivalric romance.
It wasn’t at all updated, and didn’t need to be (funny as a mobile phone joke might have been), but I felt it could very easily be and still work. The class aspect would need to be pitched quite carefully; from the present POV, the players themselves are uptight nerds, but the original audience would have been more elitist – the present-day audience might have paid for tickets in a 300 seat house, but contemporary popcorn-rustling knows no boundaries of class - but could be managed, and the random romance references, complete with extract from Palmerin of England**, cry out to be replaced with Star Wars. Imagine, in short, some sort of Galaxy Quest/Big Bang Theory*** studio-shot TV programme in which a computer programmer in the audience leaps to his feet complaining that he is hacked off with the depiction of computer nerds on TV and that he is damn well going to see a programme in which they get their due! And here is the intern who is going to be made the star of the next episode, right? And he then proceeds to read Luke-centric Star Wars fanfic. According to Wikipedia it was indeed broadcast on TV in 1938. The mind boggles.
But at the end I am mostly struck with two thoughts:
(1) “Jolly red nose”**** is a terrible earworm.
(2) The grocers get the play that they want.
*Though I feel that the knob jokes****** might have been played up more than they were. Friend was disappointed at the cutting of syphilis references. (******And genitalia jokes in general. "Discharge" might not have been much recognised, but " To sleep without a snatch would mickle grieve me" definitely was.)
**If Don Quixote was the Dracula of its day, Palmerin of England was the Twilight.
***I can’t be bothered with italics any more.
**** From about 36 sec.