Festivals · Music · Theatre

English Repertory Theatre’s Hamlet

I chanced to see English Repertory Theatre‘s Hamlet the other evening in The Fringe.  It was really good, with an excellent central performance from Rachel Waring as Hamlet.

 

Rachel Waring

I think it’s always a bit gimmicky having a female Hamlet and was disappointed by the highly rated Maxine Peake’s shot at The Dane; but we live in an age where we are about to see black actors playing Othello and Iago in the same production, where we have the excellent Smooth Faced Gentlemen all female Shakespeare company back in Edinburgh with Titus and Othello and where a couple of weeks ago I saw Macbeth performed in mime by a Japanese clown (as interesting as you would think.)

Waring plays Hamlet as I’ve never seen before, a hyperactive, manic, mouthy Molesworth, full of energy and invention.  She’s magnetic.

The rest of the players and the production are equally impressive, the staging is marvellous and there was lots of exciting business.

I’d like to see this again before the end of the Edinburgh run; the evening we went, their Gertrude had had to pull out due to illness and a (very fine) dep had arrived in Edinburgh that day to take the part.  She was working from the book, so it would be interesting to see the production again when she has bedded in with Hamlet and Claudius (arf, arf…)

 

Rachel Waring English Reportory Theatre Hamlet

English Repertory Theatre seem pretty interesting anyway from what I see on their website (if you can stomach meaningless guff like “Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most iconic work.”)  They are committed to reviving the repertory system in theatre, which has all but vanished (I’ve just been reading Simon Callow’s Being an Actor, where he goes into great detail about his fears for the future of the profession should this vine be allowed to wither) so it’s good to see that someone is doing it.

Full marks as well for the subtle use of this brilliant Billy Joel song.

Hamlet is on at Spotlites in Hanover Street until 31 August at 7.30pm.

Festivals · Music · Theatre

The Fringe 2014 – so far, pretty good…

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

I’ve been having a good Fringe so far this year and we’re not even half way in.

First nice surprise was to see Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens back in Edinburgh.  I met the players twenty years ago when the show premiered in Edinburgh and went along this year not expecting much, but was pleased to meet director and co-author Mike Fidler again – the show was in Edinburgh on condition that he direct it.  Consequently, it is a fine production again, with an excellent cast…on at The Caves every night.

Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens Edinburgh

On the subject of continuity, I enjoy going to see Fourth Monkey Theatre Company in Edinburgh – I’ve seen three of their four shows this year; an adaptation of Treasure Island aimed mainly at children, which was fine; Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba which was better; and best – definitely not one for children – a promenade adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which was chilling and thrilling in a David Lynch style. Good exercise as well, with the number of times one is up and down the steps in The Space on North Bridge.

Another repeat prescription is Shakespeare for Breakfast , which every year contrives to top the previous year’s show. Ticket price includes coffee and croissant…a must see.

Each year also brings several shows under the banner of the American High School Theatre Festival, which colonises the Churchill Theatre in Morningside for a couple of weeks. Although “school plays,” the acting, vivacity and production values put many professional companies to shame. The best of the three AHSTF shows I’ve seen was by PDS Theater from New Jersey, a stunning version of As You Like It, which took place in Pilrig Church – looks like they’re spreading out…

I can’t remember the last Fringe I didn’t see Linda Marlowe perform; this year she is in Night Bus with the deeply impressive Sarah-Louise Young, a series of comic and bitter-sweet sketches set on, yes, a night bus. That’s on at the The Pleasance, which somehow seems much more comfortable this year.

 

Linda Marlowe, Sarah-Louise Young, Night Bus

 

Festivals · Theatre

Story Shakespeare – Pericles

Well, that’s The Fringe over for another year. I saw lots of great stuff and a fair bit of cack, but even the not-very good stuff was diverting.
Year Out Drama Company’s Story Shakespeare show was as great as ever I’m glad to report; a bit more sombre in tone than in previous years perhaps, but that’s probably appropriate for Pericles, with its central strands of child abuse and forced prostitution; but there were also plenty of laughs at the leaps of faith Shakespeare (or his collaborator George Wilkins) asks. An undrownable zombie queen? Floating armour?

 

Pericles Story Shakespeare Edinburgh Fringe
Already looking forward to next year to see what the company pull out – there does not seem to be a weak link in any of their productions.
Great to meet producer Deborah Moody again.

 

Deborah Moody Stuart Ferguson Pericles
With Deborah Moody, 17th August 2013
Festivals · Music · Theatre

Smooth Faced Gentlemen – Titus Andronicus

Much praise is deserved by Smooth Faced Gentlemen for their stunning interpretation of Titus Andronicus at the Bedlam Theatre in Edinburgh’s Forrest Road.

smooth faced gentlemen titus edinburgh

 

This was a “wild card” ticket for me, as I’d not heard of the company (they’re new) and although I like to take the opportunity during the Festival to see as much rarely-performed Shakespeare as possible, the last Titus I saw was very…long…
But I was curious to see the renovated Bedlam and the performance was billed at just over an hour, so, worth a punt.
A magic hour it was. These folk really know what they are doing. Titus was not in favour for a long time as it is essentially Shakespeare’s prediction of the video nasty genre, (pulling up just short of the snuff movie) – rape, murder, mutilation and creative cookery. It is hard to stage, and was long considered just too much for an audience to deal with.  But I guess in a world where anyone can turn on the radio and hear Mumford and Sons, we’re inured to this sort of thing…

 

smooth faced gentlemen titus andronicus edinburgh
We know Titus can be performed as an unremitting, grim bloodbath. In the hands of Smooth Faced Gentlemen however, the appalling violence and gore are offset with lightness of touch in the acting and indeed, subtle humour; the stagecraft is stunning, with a couple of touches that were so effective I can’t believe I’ve never seen them done before; even the company’s use of the echoing depths of the converted church that is Bedlam was knowing and appropriately spooky.

Smooth Faced Gentlemen Titus Andronicus Bedlam Theatre
“Rape; murder…” Gimme shelter…

SFG’s Titus Andronicus is on until 24 August (I might even go again) and their website is well worth a look to get the gist of what this exciting company is doing.

Festivals · Theatre

If you do one thing on The Fringe…

Year Out Drama Company Edinburgh Fringe

…you should really see Year Out Drama Company doing their annual Story Shakespeare show.
I’ve watched them for about the past fifteen years at C Too at St Columba’s by the Castle and have always left entranced and elated.
They take something of Shakespeare’s, usually from the bottom drawer, and present a fresh, vibrant take which, to be fair, is usually only related to the text very loosely; maybe a title, a plot and the odd line of text. From this, their alternating cast of young actors and singers create fifty minutes of something fresh and sunny which lifts the soul and the heart. They are funny and unpretentious and are always the one thing which I make sure I get tickets for before anything else in August.
This year they are tackling Pericles between 12th and 17th August at C Too.

 

Story Shakespeare Pericles press shot
Press shot for Story Shakespeare’s Pericles

 

Books · Theatre

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare portrait by Chandos

Today is round about Willie the Shake’s birthday; no-one really knows when it was. Although the date of his death (which is known to be 23rd April in 1616) is reputed also to have been the date of his birth in 1564, the effect of the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when 10 days were “lost” in England, confuses the issue.
The picture above is known as the Chandos portrait and is generally accepted nowadays as being the most likely to be a likeness. A previous contender was the Flower portrait below, which is what they sell at the RSC (I think it was given to them by the Flower family.)

William Shakespeare, Flower portrait

Either way, Happy Birthday; still sounding groovy at 449-ish.