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Every Man Out Of His Humour Interview

In its first professional production since the 1600s, Sweet Sorrow Theatre Company presents Every Man Out of his Humour, Ben Jonson’s incredible farce of ridiculous, terrible people getting their comeuppances at Stratford-Upon-Avon’s Bear Pit Theatre.

This new production is directed by Josh Caldicott and plays from 27th until 30th September 2023. I chatted with Josh to learn more about the piece.

What first drew you to this piece?
When I first came across this play, I found it to be an absolute treasure trove. Where most plays have an A and a B plots, Every Man Out of his Humour seems to have A, B, C, D, E, F… plots, all of which are incredibly funny and absurd: you have a character changing clothes all the time to keep up with the fashion, intercut with a pompous knight declaring a voyage with his dog, intercut with a merchant doing over the top gestures of love to his wife who couldn’t care less, and that’s just to start with.

Aside from that, the play is the first satirical drama to be written and as such there are so many witty jokes playing with the theatrical culture. Sogliardo is meant to be a direct parody of Shakespeare (who was notably absent from the cast list of this Lord Chamberlain’s Men play), and there are references to Hamlet and other plays - there’s even an “Et tu Brute”. It’s really funny seeing these Shakespeare plays being parodied and played with by people who would have known him personally.

This production is the first professional staging since the 1600s, why do you feel the story remains relevant to a 2023 audience?
Essentially, the play is about terrible people in positions of power succeeding despite being terrible, which I think has a particular relevance today. That’s why we’ve decided to set the play in the modern day, which I think helps to get those resonances across. Certainly as we’ve been rehearsing the play, we’ve found some satisfaction in having these pompous characters see some comeuppances.

But I also think the play is genuinely entertaining - and not just in terms of witty jokes, but there’s also elements of pure farce and slapstick, there’s also some dark humour; I think whatever kind of humour you like, there will be something in it for you.

How do you approach the text for a directors perspective especially when it’s not been played professionally for so long?
It’s certainly been difficult. We’ve not had past productions to fall back on for reference, we’ve not had the shorthand that is usually available doing Shakespeare plays that are more familiar, there aren’t even particularly good synopses available to help explain the play. We’ve had to take our time working through the text to make sure we know exactly what we’re saying so we can work out how to communicate that with the audience.

But in a way, I think the beauty of putting on a performance, where each actor is given a character to play with and explore and understand, has really helped to unpack this play. In many ways, the play is a series of absurd caricatures doing weird things, and so having the opportunity to give each of these characters to an actor to bring to life has been a joy to watch.

What keeps you inspired as a creative?
I think I’ve been very fortunate to work with an incredibly talented group of actors and creatives who always help me see things in a new light and push me to be more creative. I’ve worked on this play both creatively and academic for a long time now, and I think during the lockdowns of Coronavirus, I was forced into just seeing the play very academically; and whilst we had Zoom plays, they were never quite the same as being in person. Bringing this play back to the rehearsal room, I was delighted to see everyone have their own takes on the characters, it challenged some of the ways I saw the play, and it really brought it to life in a way that it's been crying out for for 400 years!

What do you want an audience to takeaway from seeing the production?
My biggest hope is always the same, which is that I hope the audience goes away from the play having had a really good time. Theatre is made to be enjoyed, and I think that is particularly true of this play. There are so many laughs, shocks and surprises through the play, that I’m excited to get to put it in front of an audience. If the audience can also take away a sense of how good a Ben Jonson play can be, and get excited to see more, that would be a huge bonus, but if we can make you laugh then it will have been a success!

Every Man Out Of His Humour plays at The Bear Pit Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon from Wednesday 27th until Saturday 30th September 2023. Tickets are £14 (£12 concessions) and are available from

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