Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Met an interesting bloke this evening, actor I think he said was. Claims to have written some plays as well. Name of William Shakespeare, a Brummie. Don’t think he’ll ever become famous though.
Fresh from a successful run Down Under at a pub in the Adelaide Fringe, Nicholas Collett has brought Your Bard to Edinburgh, but it’s the rather more salubrious surroundings of Assembly Mount Place’s Baillie Room that’s hosting this version of his take on Shakespeare’s life and times, and his attempt to answer that perennial question, did Shakespeare actually write all those plays or did he do the 16th Century equivalent of a “cut and paste” from other sources.
Academics have spent eons debating the charge that Shakespeare either nicked ideas, scripts or both in order to boost his own, pretty prodigious output. In a bid to settle the argument once and for all, Collett puts himself in the Bard’s shoes, taking us through his early life as an actor before he started to find his voice as a playwright. And Collett’s passionate take is very much that Shakespeare was his own man, producing all that is commonly attributed to him.
Collett is a consummate and charismatic storyteller, alternately full of energy and pathos, switching effortlessly between the many and varied characters he uses in his hour long monologue. Accents are many and varied and his sense of comic timing is acute, as is his creative use of silence. As his eponymous character indeed notes, less is more in the theatre.
With no set or props, it’s just like being taken back to the theatre of Shakespeare’s day where the audience has to use its imagination to fill in the gaps, easy to do when the voice and movement of the man in front of you is so engaging.
And engage with the audience is another aspect of this performance that Collett does to good effect, despite the challenge of a rather dark auditorium – perhaps a little more light on those with whom he is interacting might add to the warmth of his conversations with us.
This is a nicely constructed, engagingly scripted and directed piece of theatre which, whilst containing little new material (what is there to discover after four hundred years, one might ask), is never less than fresh and enlightening throughout. It’s a very pleasant hour’s entertainment for Bard aficionados and would equally be a very accessible introduction to anyone wondering what this Shakespeare malarkey is all about.