fringe: shakespeare's ménage a trois
I started this year's Fringe with a visit to the Raw Shakespeare Project, and here I am, nearly at the end with a return visit. And a very different experience overall.
For Shakespeare's Ménage a Trois, they've taken sequences from three of the Bard's plays, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream and present them as self contained vignettes... so they become Beatrice and Benedick, The Tragedy of Lady Macbeth and Bottom’s Dream respectively.
As characters, Beatrice and Benedick are essentially screwball comedy before there was screwball comedy... and with Leah Anderson and Mark Drury as the titular pair, the barbs do fly thick and fast. Anderson clearly relishes the dialogue here and Drury is both leading man and prat-falling fool all at the same time.
Backing them up as four different characters are Isabella Shaw and Damien White... both Shaw and White have a talent for hamming it up (in the best possible way... and doubly so when White throws on a frock for comedy effect, especially with his beard), and in all three plays I found that I was drawn to Shaw anytime she was on stage, especially as Wall in Bottom's Dream (more on that in a minute).
After a brief break and a costume change Beatrice and Benedick transition to Lord and Lady Macbeth.
I will say that Drury makes an excellect Macbeth, but I did feel that Anderson was a little stiff in her delivery, more so in her opening monologue than when she spoke to Drury. But as I've said before, it's hard to remember all that dialogue AND be able to make it all live as speech at the same time. Or maybe that was just an acting choice for Lady M, as she was certainly full of personality in the other two sequences.
The sequence was very much Lady M's story (as the name suggests), so it kept some of my favourite lines ("O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!") and lost others ("That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold!"). White and Shaw were less prevalent here, just because the story has been trimmed of all but a few additional characters.
And then, as Shaw announced to the crowd, Lady Macbeth needed a bit of a cuddle, so after a brief break we were back in the land of the fairies with Oberon and Titania.
The first thing I have to say about this sequence is that I absolutely adored the choice of costuming. I half wished they'd done this throughout, although how well it would have worked for Macbeth is debatable...
Drury as Oberon, Shaw as Titania and Anderson as Puck were all wearing jeans and printed t-shirts declaring them "Fairy King", "Fairy Queen" and "Hobgoblin" respectively. Drury's shirt especially got a massive laugh from the crowd (although all I could think was "I want one!"). White filled out the quartet as the ass-eared object of Titania's enchanted affections, and then the other three threw on coats and hats to play the players within the play.
Shaw did a fantastic job as Titania, managing to be equal parts sultry and petulant... and Anderson was manically gleeful as Puck, bounding across the stage at every opportunity and really showing a completely different side to her personality.
But where they all really shone were as the players... White was pompous and hammy as Bottom/Pyramus, Drury radically transformed into a very childlike Flute/Thisbe, Anderson combined the roles of Quince and Snug into one, also managing a very meek lion but the standout was Shaw as Snout/Wall... she was hilarious, rolling her eyes at Bottom and making Wall more than a little naughty.
I've never really like the player characters in Midsummer, they've always felt like Shakespeare came up a few pages short and was just padding the play out, but I genuinely enjoyed this interpretation.
In fact I thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance.