Adelaide Fringe 2015
This is not, repeat, NOT! a Shakespeare performance. This one-man show is part classic comedy with a little bit of drama thrown in for good measure. It was developed in Italy under the watchful eye of the world’s foremost commedia dell’arte master, Antonio Fava. It’s got danger, it’s got love and hate, and it’s even got a one eyed monster…
Having never seen a commedia dell’arte performance before I was unsure of what to expect—I was pleasantly surprised by the twists in the tale and Shane McMullan did an exceptional job playing five different characters, using only his voice, body language and traditional commedia dell’arte masks to personify each character. There are four main characters in this style of theatre: the Old Man, the Servant, the Lovers and the Captain. McMullan took four key characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and twisted them to suit this show and traditions of the art. He also took the storyline and transformed it into a thrilling tale with injections of black comedy.
Flavio is the hero in this tale—he is a brave knight, a loyal companion, and a passionate lover until he falls under the spell of a lustful creature in the enchanted forest. However, this is where the similarities to the Shakespearean play ends. Isabella, the love of his life who he left behind to go to war before ultimately getting lost in the forest, takes it upon herself to find Flavio and rescue him. Along the way she and El Capitan, Flavio’s superior and Isabella’s secret admirer, encounter more strange and fearsome creatures in the mysterious forest.
The set is minimal with the masks and some wooden sticks that double as a forest and weapons. The lighting is subtle but atmospheric, which complements the moody soundtrack provided by the talented but enigmatic live musician on stage. The script is straightforward and McMullan weaves through the different characters effortlessly, using his body and gesticulations to emphasise the characters’ intentions.
McMullan’s performance is engaging and this take on a Shakespearean classic was certainly memorable. At times the story deviated from the well-known tale and the audience were taken by surprise, sometimes this worked in McMullan’s favour, other times it failed to have the intended effect. The audience were a bit slow to react to some of the double entendres and jibes, but it was well received and McMullan’s energy and passion never faltered. It was an enjoyable evening and I’m looking forward to more commedia dell’arte.