Edinburgh Fringe 2013
This very good group of actors try to bring some order to a convoluted piece of theatre that begins by introducing George to us before he is introduced to the rest of the acting company. He is unsure of who he is and a few of the company share that confusion. Then he gets pitched into the performance which starts with Private Lives and continues through Hamlet, Checkmate to A Man for All Seasons. George, without ever knowing/revealing the truth comes to a sticky end.
George has wandered onstage and is now backstage, whilst onstage as an actor when he thought he was an accountant. With the help of a maid during Private Lives he muddles through before ending up in Hamlet which is a sideways leap of sorts. From there as another actor enters onstage he has to muddle through Checkmate before his demise in A Man for All Seasons which feels a little harsh and brutal to be fair. If this had been called an Accountant’s Nightmare I might have got it. For me few of the actors have nightmares but this all belongs to George. I am also unsure as to why George just doesn’t say stuff this and leave. Both of these issues give this company a problem as they are better than this material.
Plays like this can be very attractive as they include various styles and types of performance that stretch actors. They give people the opportunity to play various roles and all of them far from seriously as they are “within” another play. The problem is that it needs a coherent coat hanger on which to drape this convention; otherwise it leaves you cold. Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound works because it has a fantastic set of reasons as to why it should. I just thought some of this rather weak writing.
Onstage the entire ensemble worked as that – an ensemble. The calibre of the acting was good with George at times catching the comic nature of the piece bang on. I did think the cast could have pushed it a bit more in terms of pace. It was rather ponderous.
The set was very basic until we had the finale when it became slightly more elaborate. Executions though, can do that to you. It served as a useful backdrop and I was as convinced that the backstage was now the stage as I had been when the stage was used as the backstage. Costume was exactly what a stock look for each piece would be and therefore added to the mood of the piece being about different plays at different times in what appeared to be a fairly standard rep company.
This was a young company who has a lot going for it. I do have reservations about their choice of play and think I would have preferred to see something a bit more challenging and less confusing. Of course some drama does not need to make perfect sense but when you are playing it straight it helps. That having been said I was entertained and their approach was thoroughly engaging.
The audience were very appreciative and this does let me think they could have been more adventurous and got better results. I am sure that on reflection they may feel such criticism harsh but a company does choose what they do to allow those of us who care to decide whether we should attend. I would not hesitate to attend this company’s productions again but hope they choose a little wiser next time.