Edinburgh Fringe 2017
A parody of a play about an apparent parody of a play with Shakespearean overtones combined with undertones of just about every other type of farce in the genre. And yes, someone does lose their trousers – sorry, pantaloons.
Questing Vole Productions has a reputation for their ability to render the serious silly and the abstruce absurd but they’ve really pushed the boat out with their latest piece in which the title alone is longer than some of the Bard’s actual scenes.
Defying description, this was a pretty anarchic hour of fun and frolics which ended, like most Shakespeare tragedies, with more dead on the stage than alive. Quite how we got there no-one could really remember given the comings, goings and general chaos that pervaded throughout this new piece by Joel Lipsom that Alex Brinkman-Young somehow managed to stage in theSpaceUK’s splendid Upper Theatre.
Using every inch of space available and every exit and entrance, the eight strong cast took us through the key elements of the All’s Well That Ends Well plot, with some fine and true (well, true-ish) Shakespearian soliloquies giving the likes of Efi Gautbier (Lady Julia) and Jonathan Eddyshaw (Count Vincentio) the chance to reveal their classical training. But, twixt and between, just about everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, leading to Chris, the play’s “director”, losing the plot as he ranted, Basil Fawlty style, at the ineptitude of the talent, or lack thereof, placed at his disposal.
With dead bodies appearing from wardrobes, kissing actors running out of breath, actors literally falling on their swords and techies kidnapped from the sanctity of their box and forced to join the action on stage, this was not a piece short on capers or physical theatre. Top this off with the verbal high jinks caused by non-appearance of actors or the wrong ones showing up at inconvenient moments and you’ll have a good idea of what was going on. Well, as good an idea as anyone else in this slightly bewildered audience.
But even farce needs some sort of thread and/or structure, which is where this piece came up a bit short. It borrowed, or at least appeared to, from too many comedic styles including the aforementioned Basil Fawlty of the eponymous towers, Monty Python (the original and their Holy Grail), Blackadder, The Play That Goes Wrong (and spin offs) and, as we hit the denouement, there was a clear parallel visible with Ronald Harwood’s iconic work, The Dresser. All great examples in their own right but a bit overpowering when lashed together, causing the watcher to veer towards the confused rather than the convulsed at times.
Yet there’s enough in here to warrant rolling up to see it. There’s some good comic acting and physical theatre (including a tightly choreographed sword fight and a “dead body” who was utterly convincing) and the script is an amusing mix of original iambic fused with the “improvised” iambic the actors are forced to adopt as things spiral out of control. On balance, worth a look.