Edinburgh Fringe 2017
An imaginative staging of one of the Bard’s lesser aired plays.
It’s a bare stage. Well, bare apart from twelve youngsters from Hopkins Drama Association, all the way from New Haven in Connecticut, dressed in white tops, primary coloured pantaloons and matching sneakers with long shoestrings. They move about the stage to upbeat percussion, breaking off once the audience has settled to introduce their latest Fringe offering, Cymbeline.
Cymbeline? What or who is Cymbeline? Well, it’s not one of Shakespeare’s better known or most frequently aired plays, but it does have the redeeming feature of containing pretty much every plot device the Bard ever employed in his works. A round dozen, in fact, including the obvious such as mistaken identity, cross dressing and young noble love together with some less so, like fidelity tests, death potions, evil mothers and, most notably here, the use of a secondary character after whom the play is named.
As with all Shakespeare plots, it’s complicated, but clear and concise narration was provided throughout, either through a character stepping out to enlighten those watching or, mid-piece, a rather effective and engaging ensemble summary.
A lot of very well-choreographed physical theatre was also deployed, providing effective illustration to the text. Some clever lifts, mime and body shaping created props, oceans, caves and a variety of other effects. There was some strong acting as well, led by Zander Blitzer as Imogen; crystal clear of voice, she set the stage alight with her energy and delivery. So too did the mercurial, androgynous Fi Schroth-Doumas as Cloten. And boy, can this kid sing as well as act! Georgia Doolittle also stood out as the Queen, every inch the evil step-mother, although far too young to be a beautiful widow. Mention should also be made of the charismatic Colin Flaumehaft as Jachimo, perfectly cast as a dashing young Italian rascal with a convincing accent to boot.
And this was certainly a shoestring production in the sense that the cast also played most of the larger props this particular play requires, including boats, beds, buildings, Doric arches, chairs, chariots and many more. Such actual props as were deployed were simple, cheap to make and effective. Sound came on a tight budget too, with a three person team providing an imaginative percussive backdrop. Lighting was blessedly simple, and even better once someone remembered to switch the house lights off about twenty minutes in.
With twelve actors and twelve plot devices, this piece had a neat symmetry to it and proved, once again, that you don’t need a fancy set and complicated props to get a story across. This team used the script, some good physical theatre and their obvious joy of being on stage to produce an uplifting example of Shakespeare on a shoestring. Recommended viewing, but only playing on 16th, 18th and 19th, so hurry along if you want to catch them.