Edinburgh Fringe 2017
High tempo, skilfully edited adaptation of Twelfth Night from an emerging theatre company of great promise.
Shakespeare wrote long plays. Very long plays. With lots of words and very convoluted plots, often in the fifth degree of intentionality, as, for example, is the case with Twelfth Night. Enter those awfully jolly people from Rolling In The Aisle Productions with a solution. Cut out the surplus verbiage, stick in a multi-talented, multi-part playing Narrator to explain who is doing what to whom and why, play up the comedy, play down the tragedy and you’ll pull the punters in.
So far, so good as theSpace on the Mile is sold out very early (in Fringe time) on a Wednesday morning – not many shows have that luxury. Cue narrator Thomas Hampton whose amiable badinage warms up the audience so that we soon get the idea – cut Twelfth Night in half and you get Sixth Night, an ideal compromise for any audience with a short attention…….short att….. what was I going to write there?
So, in an hour of hectic coming and going, this burgeoning theatre troupe from Loughborough tell the tale, holding the attention of both old and young,entertaining whilst ensuring that they stick resolutely to delivering the original plot largely in its original prose. I say “largely” as the script is riddled with clever asides, nods, winks and those little gestures that often convey as much as a page long soliloquy.
Credit to the indefatigable Hampton, who combined his core role as said Narrator with a variety of cameos, each delivered with a dead-pain demeanour that extracted every ounce of potential humour from the situation. Commedia dell’arte was well to the fore from the splendidly corpulent George Cooper as Sir Toby Belch and his sidekicks were suitably bawdy. And androgynous confusion was supplied by the very capable Corinne Bells as Viola, who of course masquerades as Cesario most of the time, frustrating the love of Orsino and Olivia – see, told you it was a complicated plot.
Special credit is due to Alice Berry for the sobriety she showed as Duke Orsino – quite how she kept a straight face in the midst of all that tomfoolery is beyond me. A lesser actor would have corpsed after about ten minutes in the role.
Perhaps more could have been made of Malvolio’s capacity for making an idiot of himself and a bit more attention to enunciation might have made some of the dialogue a bit clearer, especially when the action really got going.
But these are relative trifles in what was a bright and breezy piece with which to start any day at the Fringe. It comes as recommended viewing for its upbeat acting, sound and lights that complement (rather than compete) and the nice balance between original and modern text. And if your name is Keith and you like the idea of wearing a pinny, sit right in the front row to ensure that you are part of the action.