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Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Time Out Of Joint

Heart Productions

Venue: C Soco


Low Down

Much has been said about the inspiration behind Shakespeare’s Sonnets – rumours abound of the Dark Lady and her love of a possible homosexual love interest of Will’s. Very little of it has been proved, and scholars come back again and again to the works themselves. As does Frank Bramwell, in this play ‘Time Out Of Joint’, which finds Shakespeare writing sonnets and a first draft of ‘Hamlet’ with the Dark Lady over his shoulder.



Knowing the plot of ‘Hamlet’ would probably help when watching this play. It’s a reasonable assumption that most audience members will know a bit about Shakespeare, so maybe they’re likely to know his longest play too. The point is that a lot of the more subtle nuances of this script can be lost if the parallels with ‘Hamlet’ aren’t spotted. For instance, the passing back and forth of love tokens, or the Bard instructing a lover, "Get thee to a nunnery".

What this play is very good at doing is raising an intrigued eyebrow. It constantly suggests possible inspirations for moments of Shakespeare’s plots (I think all from ‘Hamlet’) and even certain turns of phrase. That’s why knowing ‘Hamlet’ comes in handy. That said, without a detailed knowledge, it’s still easy to see Will as a Hamlet-type figure, caught between two women and very frustrated by everything. Then he casts away a former lover for a higher purpose, and it all starts to feel very like the Danish tragedy.

But it’s possible that all this Bardolatory is too much, too clever-clever. While a character saying "As you like it" raised a smile, it also raised a sigh, and made me wonder if I should have been listening more carefully for subtle references to other plays. Then there’s the mid-point of the play that has more than a hint of ‘Twelfth Night’ about it, what with a woman flirting with a woman who’s dressed as a man and in love with her master.

The love triangle is something Bramwell has fun with, but the cast could have yet more fun with. ‘Time Out Of Joint’ is at its best when Will is trying to write and the women fight around him – it borders on farce, and brilliantly so. When everything gets out of hand, the drama steps up a gear and that’s when Will can finally find a release from his torment and find an ending for his first draft.

Maresa Schick – as the infamous Dark Lady – epitomises French smugness and feminine wiles, manipulating Peter Ormond’s Will with almost every purr, petulant sulk and cute giggle. Ormond himself alternates between dominating the stage, pleading with his women and suffering as they gang up on him. Just what any man should expect when his ex and his current mistress meet – maybe he should be grateful that his wife stayed up in Stratford.

Entertaining, but maybe too clever for its own good and therefore one for the big Shakespeare fans.