Great Shakes & not so great shakes.

Y’know I really should do my blog earlier in the evening but I always allow myself to get sucked into catching up on the other blogs I follow …… two hours later! I procrastinate by reading the Procrastinator’s Day Off, oh the irony!

Anyways, old Shakey, how many ways have I seen thee? Let me count the ways. As straight no-messing-about productions go I’ve not seen many, Coriolanus was memorable, Venus & Adonis less so but for the venue it was in. Hamlet I’ve seen as a Panto, performed on a bouncy castle and something called Fat Hamlet, which I have absolutely no recollection of!

I do have a fond but vague memory of A Midsummer Night’s Dream re-write where the set was just a huge old sofa in a student flat; they sat on it, sprawled on it, clambered over it, hid behind it. Yep, the sofa was the star.

Then, of course, there’s the Scottish play. In 2000, we had the one man retelling of it with Homer Simpson taking the lead. Checking back, apparently I also saw a Japanese production of it that year, you might think that one would have stuck in the mind! More memorable was Macbeth Pruned & Henry V Pulped by the Flying Pig Theatre way back in 1997. Henry V was done Tarantino-style but it was Macbeth as a “if it can go wrong it will” amateur theatre show that was hilarious. We bumped into the cast two nights later queuing  for another Macbeth retelling, they were very happy to hear we’d enjoyed as they didn’t seem too positive, but just as we’d buoyed them up, the show we all saw deflated them again.

That would be Elsie & Norm’s Macbeth. See, Norm wasn’t taken with all that flowery stuff Shakespeare came out with, so he’d rewritten Macbeth, proper northern stuff, like, and with wife Elsie and various cuddly toys they were going to perform it to us. If my memory serves me right Banquo was a large cuddly panda (with added sheet as a ghost) and yes, Fleance was a small panda. But the most interesting Fringe history fact is that Elsie was played by Pip Utton! Yes, he who is known for his brilliant monodramas playing such as Adolf Hilter and Maggie Thatcher. A quick look in this year’s programme shows he’s doing his Greatest Hits, methinks he won’t be including Elsie, but he should!!

Oo , I nearly forgot, in 2002 at what was the Gateway Theatre on Elm Row, in a small, very hot room, about a dozen folk sat with binoculars to watch Tiny Ninja Theatre presents Macbeth. The actors were dime store figures and inch high plastic ninjas, Mr & Mrs Smile as Macbeth and his Lady were particularly good. Though the audience couldn’t help a chuckle or two, the cast played it very straight, bit of a juxtaposition. I was very sorry the company didn’t return to the Fringe.

There’s only one other company I really have to mention when it comes to Shakespeare at the Fringe, but I’ll leave that til breakfast.

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