Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Portland Place School
The SPACE @ venue 45
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
A school production that comes out the school gates and delivers a shortened version in 50 minutes with the drama pared down but high on the essence of the play. With decent production values this performance, workshopped with the actors shows that the study of the Bard can be creative and certainly should never be buried in the curriculum.
Cutting any Shakespeare down in size will always make people uneasy. Unfortunately the indulgent may record what is missing more than what is seen. For me cutting to the chase and particularly that which is Richard’s chase to the crown is a valuable way of engaging with a younger audience. I don’t hold with the “they don’t get the poetry” malarkey but I do believe that some of the more ponderous parts of the Bard’s work can be quite difficult to get across.
This young cast – bar one but I shall return to that – can tell a Shakespeare well. Obviously the workshopped nature of the rehearsal process has helped and the school’s indulgence here is worthy of continued investment. It’s a personal preference but I do not like the clichéd hunch back version of the villain and in this production the hunch back was there in full force. It is, however, an interpretation that is legitimate and I would be churlish to judge using my own preference. I merely observe that this production had actors capable of more interesting interpretations.
Which leads me to the “bar one”. One of the actors due to play Buckingham, according to the programme, could not do so because of a professional sporting engagement. There was no further explanation. As a note in the programme it was more mysterious than anything else. I have a funny feeling it may have something to do with the Olympics due to some of the publicity on the school website. If so why not say? It necessitated that the Director play the part. Now, Mr Sugarman, when you are at least 15 years older than the cast, in a shiny suit, shirt unbuttoned, the cross round your neck worn like a medallion and the only character allowed to chew gum, you can look like a spiv. What you definitely look like is out of place. My eyes were forever drawn away from others as the presence of this older chap was incongruous. It may have just been unfortunate that this change happened at a late stage or there was no other choice but it did not sit well with the production. Sir can direct, but sir’s acting wasn’t that fantastic.
The use of the swivel chair and large desk denoting corporate power as a set was, I thought effective. The battle of Bosworth Field was imaginatively staged and the original entrance of Richard particular highlights within a number of set pieces. This was a school production that hit high in terms of originality and production values but where it fell short, I thought was that the pace flagged at times; the young cast just a little tired and not tested.
I would recommend any school wishing to put on a school play to go and see this version to realise that school plays ought not only to be at this standard but of this type. Let us have no more lazy nonsense with sparkly tights – let us have challenge as this young cast proved they can cope with it.
I left feeling that I had seen a good production but one that left me feeling there was more could be wrung out of the piece. Notwithstanding my own views on actors in roles unsuited and Richard being played as a cripple by a non disabled actor this was a production worth seeing. In such an ensemble piece it would be wrong to pick out one actor for praise but the principal role demands comment as Ali Wilson Goldsmith was great. Despite my own reservations regarding the portrayal his director may have used he went with it and played it well. As an example of how the rehearsal process had been used to great effect his surrounding actors equalled him in support but playing Richard at Edinburgh – what an opportunity. And it was done well. It was the epitome of the spirit in the production and I, for one, shall be looking to see them again.