Brighton Fringe 2017
Directed by Carole Todd this intriguing play produced by Wanton Minds and Pimpinella Productions has developed since its try-out last year. Dramatist/actor Mjka Scott’s own takes involve a twist on this soft perennial. Period dress and an array of vegetables festoon the empanelled courtroom.
‘It’s about this nurse.’ Directed by Carole Todd this intriguing play produced by Wanton Minds and Pimpinella Productions has developed since its try-out last year. The essential point is that’s it a fascinating take, and a compelling story. Dramatist/actor Mjka Scott’s own takes involve a twist on this soft perennial. Period dress and an array of vegetables festoon the empanelled courtroom as Angelica, former nurse to the Capulets sets out her moonlight vegetables quite literally.
Scott’s storytelling is compelling and she allows it to breathe. There’s a fine foil too: Silvana Montoya’s Juliet speaking Shakespeare is a luxury of voice and actor under-used. Though not as underused as the vegetables which I felt sure would feature in a denouement, someone choking on one for instance. Since Angelica’s reinvented, there’s perhaps no reason to stick to the Stoppard formula of having every other character only speaking the lines of Hamlet, say, when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern meet them.
Todd stages an essentially monologic drama, whose inner music and characterization is in danger of being skewed by the insertion of Juliet’s voice at some key points though she’s elsewhere absent. These could be more frequent or not there at all. A directorial decision to inch us away from the splendid deep contralto of Scott has partially worked; there needs to be more fluidity of script though, a play between the Shakespeare we all know, and the compelling difference that gives this show its raison d’etre.
The story’s simple. Angelica sells moonlight vegetables and much is made of this, though there dramatic function eludes me. As does the identity of those she holds spellbound with her life story as she fails to sell her vegetables (touchingly done). For instance, are they members of a Verona household?
The new material’s absorbing. Angelica’s grown up as a tumbler and dancer, married a dispossessed scion of a noble family, an actor himself, who’s murdered at the time she delivers their child apparently stillborn. She’s asked to be wetnurse to the new Capulet daughter, only child of the family. This Juliet turns out charming and headstrong and we know the rest. Or do we? Reveals and twists produce a shattering climax.
The material’s good, though the script needs editing and the play doesn’t warrant an interval: it should be a hour long or at most seventy-five minutes as a Fringe event – even a 45-minute radio drama. Much from the opening might be pruned. Juliet doesn’t choke on vegetables so these need pruning or re-deploying to some deadly effect. The interactions with Juliet gained most plaudits. Given the inherent static qualities – a brilliant impro at the start wasn’t followed up – this could be a radio play too.
A brave venture then with much potential, but much pruning of the vegetable racks first.