Edinburgh Fringe 2014
A pleasing adaptation of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s The Shakespeare Revue featuring many of the best bits of this well known, international hit musical.
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s The Shakespeare Revue has been described as “one of the best things to come out of the RSC” by one of the UK’s leading broadsheets so the energetic troupe from the Emanuel Theatre Company in London had some high quality source material to work with.
Adapting and then cramming two hours of music, sketches and sonnets into just fifty minutes of lively entertainment must have felt like trying to fit the proverbial quart into a pint pot for musical director Nick House, but he, no doubt with a few suggestions from the cast, chose well, resulting in the company’s adaptation and delivery being very much on the money.
We had sketches and songs that epitomised the best in Edwardian vaudeville and music hall, Monty Python, Beyond the Fringe, Fry and Laurie and even, in the superbly executed anagram sketch, material delivered in a manner that would have made Ronnie Barker, that master of anagrams, mispronunciation and Spoonerisms, proud. There was something in this for everyone – items that hit the spot included a marvellously pretentious analysis of just one common or garden word from the script of Titus Andronicus, the over-wrought am-dram director trying to squeeze laughs out of Hamlet and the songs Carrying a Torch (for the third spear carrier in Julius Caesar) and In Shakespeare’s Day. And the audience much enjoyed a clever interpretation of Brush Up Your Shakespeare as the prelude to a grand finale featuring Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love”.
As in all the best revues, staging was pretty much non-existent, dress was a base of plain black to which the actors added simple items like hats, cardigans and so forth, and props were kept to the simple but effective. The tempo remained upbeat throughout with segue ways clearly thought out and impressively executed. A lot of thought had also gone into differentiating the rich variety of characters each actor was called upon to play, with excellent use being made of accents and body posture. Most of the singers hit most of the right notes but you’re always going to get the odd wobble in shows like this, especially when going solo. But the harmonies were pretty impressive, especially those involving the whole ensemble who had no difficulty in filling the intimate venue at theSpace on the Mile with a joyful and rich sound.
This show has a lot to recommend it and the packed audience was fulsome in its feedback, and somewhat reluctant to leave. A perfect antidote to a damp Wednesday morning in Edinburgh.