Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Two excellent one-handers from Shakespeare’s Globe. Top class acting and storytelling that makes Shakespeare seem simple. Just don’t eat the pies.
Shakespeare’s Globe has come north this year with two very different one-handers and delivered a sure-fire winner as either a double bill, or two single plays – you choose whether you want to see one or both.
Party-planner Cerese is in charge of the arrangements for a big bash being held by the Capulets to which everyone who is everyone has been invited. Except, of course, anyone that might be a Montague, especially that bloke named Romeo. They are so, so persona non-grata darling.
And Leviticus greets us from the kitchen where he’s been put in charge of watching the clocks for the new emperor, the one that succeeds Titus Andronicus after a rather feisty dinner party that went a bit off the rails.
It’s a clever formula that really worked. Create a narrative character to sit outside each of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Titus Andronicus and walk the audience through the quite complex plot and sub-plots. And do it in under fifty minutes.
So it is that Sally Lofthouse, clad in her passionately pink party dress, guides us through the issues facing Verona – gangs fighting on the streets, families at war with each other and seemingly imminent societal collapse. And to make matters worse, the only daughter of the head of the Capulet clan has fallen for a Montague boy. Can Friar Lawrence save the day? Will Romeo get the message? Or does it all end in tears?
Similarly, the very engaging Tom Giles greets us from his busy kitchen in the bowels of the palace, where he’s learned the two essential rules of working in a kitchen – do your job and keep your head down. And what a tale he has to tell us, one of intrigue, double-crossing and the potential for more blood and gore than you’d see in the average abattoir. Plus you get to taste his marvellous new pie, from an old family recipe.
Both scripts mixed modern narrative dialogue with snatches of Shakespeare’s original text, allowing both actors to slip in and out of a variety of characters, male and female. If Giles came across as the more engaging and energetic it was probably because the material allowed him to. Titus called for a lot of audience engagement, had the useful prop of an “idiot board” with the key characters on it so that he could keep the audience up to date with who had just murdered whom (by the simple expedient of rubbing out their name) and kitchen props were an excellent vehicle for creating an impression of blood and gore, without having to resort to any visuals that might have had the audience reaching for their hankies.
But Lofthouse was no less enthusiastic in terms of trying to keep the audience on track and, judging by the smiles and applause that greeted both shows, she, Giles and The Globe have more than achieved their objective of making Shakespeare accessible to anyone by being both entertaining and educating. Highly recommended!