Edinburgh Fringe 2015
An energetic and interactive introduction to the best of the Bard from a talented quartet of actors, part of the enterprising not-for-profit London based company of The Globe Players.
There’s some jolly music playing and the actors are running back and forth across the stage, greeting each other and the audience as they stream into the delightful surroundings of C South’s Lutton Place venue. It’s full-on interaction from the start as younger ones (complete with a selection of Mums, Dads and a few doting grandparents) are encouraged down to the front so they can be a part of the action from the off.
After all, whilst it’s true that the play’s the thing, it’s the audience that needs to do quite a lot of work if the actors are to pull off their story-telling feat. Here, just as in Shakespeare’s day, there is little in the way of set and just very simple props and costumes.
The rest, as our actors advise us, is very much up to our imaginations. We have to create the image of the forest, rivers, the buildings and all the other physical ephemera that are implicit in many of Shakespeare’s works. It’s a bit easier with the characters, of course, and a succession of rapid costume changes allows our four rather hard-pressed actors to create ghosts, witches, tinkers, lovers, tailors, sailors, kings, queens, rich men, poor men, beggar men and thieves in this fifty minute romp through a selection of scenes designed to illustrate to a younger audience the different type of stories Shakespeare created.
Sensibly enough, the quartet avoid too many of the wordier soliloquies in favour of showcasing the charismatic (such as Puck), the ridiculous (the Mechanicals from the same play), the romantic (one obvious choice there), the hubristic (think “Et tu, Brute”) and the truly revolting (Caliban). This ensures that interest never wanes and that there is often something visual for the really young to latch on to, pretty vital if you don’t want the audience to get lost in the helter-skelter.
That no-one does is also down to some very well-placed signposting from the quartet, making sure that, as we veer from play to play and plot to plot, everyone knows just what is about to happen to whom, and why. And the delightful inclusion of children as stage-based audience, filling in roles where no dialogue is required and providing various “noises off” when prompted by those running around in front of them gives everyone who wants to be involved a taste of the action.
More could perhaps have been made of Shakespeare’s potent insults (adults, as well as kids, love a bit of verbal mud-slinging) and, whilst having an older actor had the potential to add realism to those roles calling for thespians closer to their three score years and ten than they might like to admit, the fulfiller of this particular niche unfortunately lacked the abundant energy and presence of his three younger colleagues which dampened the mood a bit at times.
That apart, this is a well-constructed and nicely delivered introduction to the Bard’s works. Well worth strolling a bit out of town for, especially given the rather special location.