In my second post about Ed Fringe 2017, I’m focussing on two institutions (Fringe-stitutions…? Sorry) that build their shows on Shakespeare and his works.
First up, Shakespeare for Breakfast (originally written for the British Theatre Guide).
In a big anniversary year for the Fringe, C theatre celebrates 26 years of Shakespeare for Breakfast and its signature blend of Shakespearean parody, riffing on familiar plots and characters, with references to contemporary trends and events. This time, it’s Macbeth getting the treatment, and I would be willing to bet that this is one of their best shows yet.
Set on an allotment amongst the politics of the Thistly Bottom Garden Society, we meet leader Duncan and his presidential chain of plastic vegetables spray-painted gold; the three snitches—dabbing, hair flicking teenage girls; a northern Macbeth (renamed McGarry to prevent the name being uttered on stage, thus cursing the play) and his wife Linda, a snobby housewife worthy of Made in Chelsea. As usual, an incredibly talented cast of just five actors work hard to bring these characters to life.
Modern references include a snap election called to decide whether Malcolm or Macduff becomes the next society president, gluten-intolerant Linda dying after running through a field of wheat and an excellent parody of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” as the show finale.
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable show packed full of laughs for Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare buffs alike, though the former tends to get more out of lines like “once more into the bleach,” uttered by the Polish cleaner tidying up after Duncan’s murder. Even the free croissants given out at the start get featured as Macbeth’s murder weapon of choice.
Is this a five star show I see before me? Why yes, it is.
Appropriately enough, my Thursday at the Fringe started with Shakespeare for Breakfast and ended at the Underbelly in George Square, with Shit-Faced Shakespeare’s version of Romeo and Juliet.
Clue’s in the name, but the premise of Shit-Faced Shakespeare is that a cast of actors perform a straight version of a Shakespeare play and one of them is absolutely hammered. A host introduces the concept to the audience – an explanation which could be shorter, to be honest – and reveals how much the actor in question has drunk, along with a few other features of the show (a tip: if you don’t want to be responsible for “the bucket,” don’t sit in the front row).
I have to admit that I was sceptical – how drunk could the actor reasonably be? Surely they would exaggerate it? – but it does work. The pissed Lord Capulet/Mercutio manages to stay upright and remember most of his lines – with some prompts – but has a penchant for hacking off other characters’ limbs with his sword (a toy one, exchanged for the much more realistic and dangerous-looking one he starts with). The other cast members play along with this, hopping around the stage and ad libbing references to it into the script.
It’s daft, crowd-pleasing stuff ideal for a large audience who have had a drink or two themselves – and I can imagine that even the writer himself would appreciate this abridged, beer-soaked version of his work.