Brighton Fringe 2012
"Foot-stomping, ale-swilling, folk-fuelled storytelling, with handmade puppets and live music in Shakespeare’s favourite pub", Fine Chisel draw on Falstaff and more favourites from the Bard.
This bulls-blooded performance from Fine Chisel is a stuffed cauldron of Shakespearean morsels. We are at the tavern much frequented by the Bard himself and here we are given some oh his finest meter and scenes, drawn muchly from Falstaff, but also ranging more widely.
At the heart of this production, Fine Chisel attempt to make Shakespeare ‘normal’ but there is a danger they just end up making the extraordinary sound ordinary, when in reality these speeches were placed intentionally in settings and scenes that enhanced ordinariness.
I think it sometimes the performance works very well, making the words more accessible, bringing out the bathos and lightness. At other times it feels a bit forced and manufactured. This is what FIne Chisel needs to resolve. They’ll have to make the feeling of this being "engineered" as theatre disappear completely. They’ve almost done it, but not quite, especially as we transition from one scene to the next, or when a song suddenly bursts forth.
The four musicians (two perform much more than the other two) deliver up the goods on guitars mostly and the songs bearing Bard lyrics are enjoyable and serve well as background for the more theatrical set pieces. Falstaff is played by George Williams, Tom Spencer is Prince Hal. They are not a balanced pair, both highly talented, more than able to hold their own, but lacking a balance. Sometimes it feels as if Williams is set about ten levels higher than Spencer. As a duo they need to get this pitch perfect.
Fine Chisel have taken Shakespeare and given it a shake. The choose wisely and playfully material that they turn into standalone Bardy sketches and weave them together with musical links and a fiar amount of audience participation. At one point they are even texting Shakey across the venue on their smartphones.
Farcical, physical, the battle scene is a sight to behold and we are all part of it. What is needed here is some tightening up. It feels and looks too swaggering in places and the roughness around the edges feels a bit accidental rather than consciously designed and choreographed.
But it’s often an eruption that will warm you up, put a smile on your face, and it may just charge into your soul like a boar on fire.