Brighton Fringe 2011
This play is an adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s famous play, ‘Edward II’. The adaptation is devised and written by the writer-director of this production (as well as the actor who plays Isabel), Chilean-born Constanza Hola. This is an ambitious English adaptation for someone whose mother-tongue is Spanish; and the adaptation brings the universal themes of power, corruption, bigotry, gender, sexuality and political intrigue into an easily accessible contemporary form.
This production is alternately wonderfully dark, hilariously funny and intriguingly moving. It is an engaging, energetic and lively performance from the entire cast from start to finish. The only points of negative criticism could be largely due to the difficult performance space. This space was not built for theatre and the accoustics are poor. The actors (some Chilean, some British) coped very well with this problem but many lines were lost (in particular from the actor playing Eduardo himself – perhaps also in part due to he not being a native English speaker).
The other huge niggle for me (I had my fingers in my ears at a number of points) was the vocal pitching of some of the female actors. This seemed to improve as the play moved on, but Constanza Hola in particular (playing Isabel) employed an incredibly high-pitched screech for much of her dialogue and needs to work on this aspect of her performance. However, this minor issue aside, it is a very enjoyable romp in two acts.
The actors work hard throughout. I would single out Sebastien Concha for his truly moving and engaging portrayal of the ‘dictator’ Eduardo. Diego Poupin (narrator, ringleader figure and director) is also worth mentioning for his humour and stage-presence. Dan Van Garrett is also highlighted for his excellent accent work and multi-characterisations. Also, Lisa Depuis deserves mention for her very charming and funny portrayal of a drunk Madam of an aristocrat. And most of all, credit needs to be given to the strongest, most confident and engaging actor of the night – Elizabeth Bloom, who is clearly so talented and destined for great roles in the future.
Costume and makeup are excellent, and really help to add to the circus-like feel of the piece. Characters have their faces painted in menacing bird-like characterisations. The set is non-existent, and simple differently highted blocks are used to create different scenes, levels and opportunities for action and movement. Blocks can so often be cumbersome, ugly and ‘clunky’ and ‘creaky’. But in this instance the actors managed this extremely well and I was so impressed by their lightness of foot (there are many in the cast who are clearly dancers as well as actors), and especially as heavy army boots and high heels were worn.
The attention to production detail here needs to be congratulated. The movement work in this piece is extremely good and helps to further bring this classical piece to life. Direction is excellent and perfectly rehearsed, and the script is simple, effective and accessible (if sometimes becoming a little pantomimic – there was a reference to a SpecSavers commercial at one point…) It should be noted I feel that on this particualar evening the actors were performing to an audience of six people; two of whom were critics… But this company was undeterred and we were treated to ‘the best they had’, despite the desperately low numbers.
And the show was still very strong. I would love to have seen this from a packed house. All in all, a wonderful riot of a performance, with slight elements of not only classical theatre but also cabaret, burlesque and circus about it; where the talented and excellently-trained cast of seven actors transport us into a mad world of gimps, sexual tension, power-craze, ignorance and sexual taboo.