Young actor Jack Flyford, whose two priorities are sex and survival, finds himself in the affluent Newcastle of 1757 after fleeing Edinburgh to escape a raging, cuckolded cleric. In a Georgian Britain dangerously involved in a global war with France, Jack thinks he has found sanctuary on Tyneside, where he is taken in by the unpopular manager of the local theatre after spinning a mythical yarn about his close 'friendship' with the great thespian, David Garrick.
Within days, he finds himself caught between the town's two rival theatre managers (each backed by different commercial interests), but discovers solace in the arms of his employer's daughter, Bessie, who has a penchant for men wearing military wigs in bed. Things soon go wrong. Facing banishment from Newcastle, his fortunes sink further when his employer is found murdered. Though his first instinct is to make a bolt for it, Bessie uses her feminine wiles to persuade a reluctant Jack to track down the perpetrator.
In his bungling attempts to find the killer, Jack is plunged into a world of blackmail, power struggles, hired ruffians, suspicious lawmen and unscrupulous spies - and is constantly haunted by his Garrick lie. Could the very fate of Britain lie in his quivering hands? The whole experience is the sort of nightmare from which the feckless Flyford would normally run a mile, but life isn't that simple.