by Chris Burn
‘Shrew’ was by far my favourite, because it gave me a new view of Shakespeare. I am one of those people who adore almost everything that the great man wrote, yet cannot stand to hear his plays performed; for me, listening to an actor recite even his greatest speeches is like stepping into a strait-jacket – I become uncomfortable, frustrated and emotionally dead. I cannot explain why this is so, but it is. The beauty of this performance, by an energetic and highly colourful cast of Korean students, was that it made me realise that I could enjoy a Shakespeare play without listening to the words. Knowing the story (Kiss Me Kate!) and the characters of course helped, but the production was so beautiful and lively, with its felicitous mixture of traditional old Korean and modern Hip-Hop cultures – a perfect spectacle. Thus the fact that I could not decipher the words of the cast (though spoken in English) came as a very welcome relief. I have seen Shakespeare performed in many theatres and indeed in many languages, but I have never enjoyed a production as much as this.
The Erik Satie show was a monologue by Alistair McGowan that was entertaining but constrained by the subject matter. Erik Satie was a very great composer and unquestionably eccentric, but he was very much a loner and much of our knowledge of him comes from his letters. Interesting though parts of these were, when recited by McGowan, the fact remains that Satie is really mainly defined by his music, to a greater degree than say, Mozart or Chopin who had interesting private lives apart from their music. Nevertheless an entertaining experience.
Arcadia is a work by Tom Stoppard with an intricate and complicated plot. Dialogue, as you might expect, is quick fire and clever but plays like this require very good actors and a very slick production. Perhaps I was a little tired and the performance a little long (nearly two hours); I found myself drifting and ‘losing the plot’. The fault was probably mine, but I felt relieved when it ended.
The Fringe itself appears to be thriving – the venues provided what one needed if you kept expectations reasonably low (after attending on and off for the past fifty years I know to do this) and the organisation was as cheerful and helpful as ever.
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