Adelaide Fringe 2012
Two talented actors play 5 roles in this Shakespeare play on a revolving stage. The story revolves around the War of the Roses and conspiracies that surround Henry VI from all corners of England. Queen Margaret, the Duke of Suffolk, the Duke of York and Prince Edward circle each other, closing in on the enemies and going in for the kill. This tale has it all—lust, greed, tragedy, and drama.
Princess Margaret is captured and met by the Duke of Suffolk, on behalf of Henry VI. Underneath their banter and fear, love and lust develops and in true royal style, Margaret marries Henry VI but keeps Suffolk as a lover. When the Duke of York discovers this scandal he surmises that Margaret’s duplicitous behaviour and Henry’s weakness and oblivion to the scandal under his nose will end in England’s demise. Naturally the solution is to take the crown for himself and rule England, as it should be. Greed, corruption and treachery ensue along with the birth of an heir, whose legitimacy is questionable. This tragedy ends in inevitable deaths, but the characters and story too compelling for this to end in unhappiness.
A Shakespeare play in one hour with only two actors is a considerable risk, and although the actors played their roles well it was easy to confuse characters and lose track of the plot. With only simple props to differentiate the characters the audience was primarily guided by the soundtrack and lighting. The words flowed from the actor’s mouth, expressing more emotions than could be seen the poetry and intensity was evident in the metaphors and soliloquies.
The staging and direction was innovative and exceptional—the revolving stage offered different perspectives and effects from different angles, yet conveyed the same message. The soundtrack had a contemporary sound that gave the play an edgier feel; it set the ambience and transitioned smoothly to signify new scenes. The lighting at times detracted from the play and impaired the audience’s vision—the result of the circular stage and seating at the same level—however, it effectively expressed the mood and reflected the emotions of the characters.
As a modern Shakespeare play it had a great deal of aesthetic appeal but the intensity and dispositions of the characters were somewhat diluted as a result of having only 2 actors for 5 characters. It lead to some confusion at times and often the actors would fall into the trap of creating a new character—the amalgamation of the other characters they were playing.
Crowned was an interesting take on Shakespeare’s Henry VI performed with passion and skill—the revolving stage was a great tool in expressing a range of metaphors and themes that are prevalent in this tragedy and although it was one of the modern props it felt veracious to what the Bard was trying to express. This technique did not feel out of place or detract from the performances, which were excellent. The soundtrack also added a distinct flavour to the play and set the ambience for each scene. Overall, it was a great performance with artistic flair and originality.