How To Win Against History is the story of Henry Paget, the 5th Marquess of Angelsey. Rewriting the history written by winners, of winners – Henry Paget’s life was one buried, or burned by his family.
Presented to us in Seriol Davies’s complete effervescence, with the appropriate nod to the exuberance and extravagance which evidently led to this dissociation, this is the story not of the traditional winner, but instead of the ability to carve a life- to celebrate individuality, to walk your own path.
Matthew Blake and Dylan Townley bring this unknown, undocumented story to life by adding texture to the musical created and led by Seiriol Davies who also plays Henry. Opening with the deadpan performance by Dylan Townley, a touch of the surreal becomes apparent.
This is a production which involves the audience from the start, fortunately in an unobtrusive way. There is the need for rousing German singing, but first we are reeled in. Prompt cards, akin to black & white films, encourage our applause- loud, enthusiastic or singular. There is keeping with the Victorian era- with or without Keira Knightly.You can only imagine that the production offers appropriate tribute to Henry Paget. Born in 1875, Paget lived a life of reckless abandon, fabulously.
From an upbringing impacted by an education at Eton. Paget’s family’s wealth was inherited in 1898 and so the life outside of traditional confines was realised. The extent of his flamboyance, and ultimate bankruptcy told through acts which millions can achieve.
The production touches on these acts. From dressing his wife from head to toe in diamonds, transforming the family chapel into a theatre, touring productions across Britain and Europe because they needed to be seen. Henry died in Monte Carlo in 1905. The sixth Marquess of Anglesey destroyed all papers associated with the fifth Marquess.
And so Davies takes what is known of Henry Paget and breathes a life, and understanding into his acts.
Davies is literally fabulousness in the life of Henry. Wide-eyed enthusiasm creates an insatiable energy which transfers easily into the audience. And whilst humour and camp are high, there is so much poignancy within the 70 minute performance.
It is difficult to translate what could possible link fabulousness and poignancy, but it is all in the language. This is a performance which translates the fewest facts into the fullness of a life. The talent of Davies as a wordsmith is fully immersed in the production. It is fast paced and intricate, which can mean if you fall foul of the pace the wit dawns on you a second too late.
The intelligence which is interwoven in words is immense. The feelings that transfer in spite of the overall humour and frivolity playing across the piece. How To Win Against History is a warm, poignant and completely entertaining introduction to a piece of our history which deserved to be seen and heard.
It makes life better to know that for forever there have been people who are willing to do what ever it takes to be whoever they want. Yes, money may help. But there is still something that history may want to bury the trailblazers, the people who march to the sound of their own drum. How To Win Against History proves that we are so much better, so much happier for having everyone play a unique and wonderful part.How To Win Against History has now left the Sherman Theatre but you can/ should/ must try to catch it as it continues on its tour:
23rd November at South Street Arts Centre, Reading;
25th November at Galeri, Caernarfon;
30th November – 30th December at the Young Vic Theatre, London.