For an uproarious and experimental stage comedy, The Knight of the Burning Pestle at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse has it all.
The hilarious historic work, written by Francis Beaumont in the 17th century, defies the audience expectation that it will be a gentle comedy of manners. Things take an unusual twist when a none-too-bright grocer's apprentice causes on-stage chaos with his plans to interrupt and play the character of the Knight. Apart from the fact that there is no part of a knight in the play, nobody seems to be able to work out exactly what the burning pestle might be.
This play within a play set up, highly original at the time of its conception, is one of the earliest and best examples of a crazy, boundary-pushing comedy. Packed with highly entertaining turns of phrase and some songs that would warm the coldest of hearts, the wit and inventiveness of the material shines through more than four centuries later.