Edinburgh Fringe 2016
A masterclass in how to stage a Shakespeare tragedy in a way that captures the audience and makes them an integral part of the show. This production oozes quality from every pore.
To theSpaceUK, Niddry Street for Troilus and Cressida in the round and a seventy-five minute staging that could easily exhaust a critic’s range of superlatives, so much was there to admire from the Devon based company, Shakespeare on the Level.
A bare stage and some atmospheric sound creates an aura of quiet suspense, rudely shattered by the successive arrival of the feuding Trojans and Greeks, laying down the bones of this complex Shakespearian tragedy. It is a labyrinthine tale but the actors’ energy and some very inventive staging from director Kate Littlewood ensure that the storyline always remains clear and the action never falters from the utterly compelling.
So much attention has been paid to those tiny details that make this a production that will last long in the memory. Costumes ranged from the exotic, flamboyant even for the rich and powerful down to the more prosaic for those of humbler stock. Music (from John O’Hara) either set or matched the mood on stage, from the ethereal through to the downright triumphant. And the sound set, designed by Chris Tuffin together with the extremely ambitious lighting states programmed by Ben O’Grady supported and complemented the on-stage action.
But it’s the actors who set this piece alight. Pace, purpose, diction, characters and movement are all of the highest order. Tight cueing and selected use of silence build the tension and the fight choreography was fast, realistic and consummately executed. Whilst it’s perhaps invidious to single anyone out from this universally excellent troupe of eleven, mention must be made of the passionate, emotive Isabel Sutton as Cressida. Safeena Ladha also displayed great versatility in her roles as Cassandra, Andromache and Menelaus whilst Christopher Royle was strident and powerful in his dual roles of Priam and Ulysses. It’s a heavy play but welcome light relief came from Atilla Akinci as Thersites and the mercurial, grape-feasting James Mear provided a very realistic Patrolcus, friend to Achilles.
This was a masterclass in how to stage a Shakespeare tragedy that captures the audience and makes it a part of the show. This production oozed quality from every pore, using the four corners of the stage to full effect and every part of the auditorium as a possible entrance and exit.
What you’ve got here is RSC quality at Fringe prices. Absolutely compelling viewing from start to finish and an absolute “must see” for any Shakespeare lover. Two days left, so get your skates on.