Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Three young lives draw on Shakespeare to make sense of their world in a pice of narrative theatre from Zikit.
Billed as "a portrait of Shakespeare’s younger characters and us" Zikit theatre are looking for clues in the writings of the great Bard to throw light on our own contemporary condition on Earth. This is achieved througn focusing on the lives of three younger people, making their way in the world.
So, how well does this work as devised theatre? Here is an episodic piece, with a bit of a muted feel, though occasionally it bursts forth. But mostly we’re in storytelling mode, shifting between three contemporary stories and some cleverly chosen extracts from the classic plays.
Use of interspersed repetition, a saxophonist on stage, some mood-creating flute, direct speaking to the audience in naturalistic style, all of these create a nice tapestry of mostly calm theatre.
The actors employ a storytelling style, in fact this is the collective story journey of three people. A celebration of Shakespeare and the light he continues to throw on the struggles of life, particularly of younger people to make sense of their life-paths – this is the dramatic essence of the piece. They’ve created a story structure in which the Shakespearean interludes are a kind of supporting role in the stories.
The vocal delivery is set a bit too low for the venue, especially with the noise of two fans at the back of the theatre. I sense that this would fare better in a more well designed theatre space. It feels a but muffled in the space’s acoustics and needs a boost in projection from the performers.
The storytelling style is, as already mentioned, naturalistic, suited to the black box stage; we are directly addressed without too much fussy theatricality and the choices from Shakespeare dovetail effectively with the narrative. There’s an inventive contrast between the dramas of our storytellers, particularly relationships, trust, belief, the identity of gender and the messages to be found in the characters and tales of classic drama. What is the question? So many of ours were posed by Will himself. And they are re-asked by these characters. To be or not to be…
There’s a skilled stillness to the cast, allowing the right focus of attention onto the storyteller. For these three, Shakespeare has been an illuminator on their paths, appearing at the right time, more as a soother than an agitator. Interestingly Hamlet has sent some young people downhill, Iago has inspired some to treachery, Hamlet thoughts of suicide. So here, expect something more upbeat, always interesting to watch and they hold the Shakespeare well, with care and respect. But they do not stray too far into the dark.
Zikit hasn’t taken liberties with the Bard’s text; instead it becomes a kind of pool of inspiration into which we all dip for an hour.
I enjoyed Youth and Will for its engaging qualities. It needs to step up a level and perhaps explore the rich darker territory in many of the plays, but I’d recommend you see this and schools would be well advised to book it: it’s an accessible route to Shakespeare but also more than that. Here we have a well designed and executed piece of narrative theatre. The actors are relaxed and meet their material – both contemporary and classic – with a poised equanimity. Their style is informal though sometimes a bit over-polemical.
Can theatre really change reality? Here are three stories that would suggest yes. Go and find out for yourself.