Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Xanadu Productions brings their production ”Et tu Elvie” to the C Venue, Chamber Street. The Shakespearean penned line, “All the World’s a Stage”, from “As you Like it” is also used in Elvis’s most famous soliloquy in the song “Are you Lonesome Tonight”. With this as their foundation, Xanadu Productions present their unique comic version of Presley’s short life as a work by the bard, combining some of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches with Elvis’s popular songs. This satire aims to prove that Elvis Presley’s life story is in itself a Shakespearean Tragedy.
Two witches cast incantations around a cauldron and, summoning a young male, proclaim that he shall one day be king. Their magic comes to fruition in Tupelo, Mississippi and a woman gives birth to twin boys – only one of which survives. They imbue the surviving twin with the spirit of both children and Elvis’s fate is sealed. Under the witches spell, Elvis makes it to Sun Records recording studio and singing his possessed version of “That’s All Right Mama” to Sam Philips he is offered a record contract. His star is on the rise and with his established fan base all looks well. It’s time for national service and Elvis’s is posted in Germany. It’s here he falls for the beautiful maiden that is Priscilla.
Despite her father’s protestations they are married and have a child and, now back in the United States, he embarks on his film career. But his frustration at the roles he is offered force him to succumb to the temptations of the industry, and Priscilla realises that their marriage is failing and leaves him for another. At this point his downward spiral begins and not even his success in Las Vegas can save him from his eventual death.
This ensemble of four take on multiple roles to depict the story of Elvis’s life. Joining together, where possible, they sing and provide harmonies and quirky dance routines. There’s a young and old Elvis, with the elder able to play guitar and doing most of the singing. There’s a lot of hectic running off and on the stage to achieve their laughs and, in general, they make it. The gags are both musical and visual, requiring multiple costume changes and props, and the Ann Margaret sketch is highly entertaining.
The cast perform their Shakespearean scenes with commitment and this is what has the audience roaring. They mix and match their Shakespearean plays to fit the plot, with one of the best scenes being the hippy fairy who offers Elvis drugs that turn him into a mule. It’s a large stage with many scene changes and this became quite clumsy at points leaving the stage empty. The cast do their best to make their multiple roles believable but don’t always achieve the credibility that would give them the comic punch they need.
Despite singing live for most of the performance, they opt for miming during one song and this receives adolescent sniggers from the front row. Some of the cast miss their spotlights and obvious marks on stage and on the whole it’s not quite tight enough. However, it’s nearly there and it’s only week one so there’s time for fine tuning. If you like Elvis and want to sing along freely then this is the show for you.
The night I am there, there are Elvis fans in who sing their hearts out, oblivious to any technical issues I might have seen, just happy to bask once again in the shining light gleaming from Elvis’s Las Vegas suit.