Shakespeare at the Fringe
written by Louise Jones

Regardless of how it’s done, you can guarantee Shakespeare will be dragged up to the Fringe year after year. I’ve just leafed through (read: examined thoroughly) the Fringe guide for this summer and I spotted 56 takes on the Bard. Now I’m not any fancy mathematician but that works out as almost two Shakespeares for every day of the Fringe, including no less than 11 interpretations of Hamlet.

I’ve learnt to be wary of these productions. Too many times have people said to steer clear of Will at the Fringe, and in the spirit of the Festival Fringe it is preferable to see more, well, “fringe” plays instead of the most canon dick jokes can get. But last year, the Bunker Trilogy’s magnificent Macbeth was selling out left right and centre- they surely must have been doing something right. I wouldn’t know, because I couldn’t get hold of a ticket, but I did see the next best thing.

Much a Shoo-Be-Doo About Nothing had a promising premise. 50s Sicily, mafia, Rat Pack crooning. The end result was much less Rat Pack and more rat puppet. This isn’t a turn of phrase: there was an actual puppet serving as the sidekick for Dogberry. Did Dogberry originally have a sidekick? Did he need one? Did somebody’s mum just make a puppet for the production and they didn’t have the heart to tell her they didn’t need it? I don’t know which animal it was meant to be, and I don’t know why. Did it improve Shakespeare? Well, it certainly improved this, somehow. I can’t remember any of the actors’ faces very clearly, but I still remember the puppet as vividly as the first time I had whispered “what the hell is that”. I think the puppet saved the day or brought Hero back to life or something? It sure beat watching the ensemble do the same two dance moves over and over whilst they bemusedly sang That’s Amoré.

I can only hope, that with 56 Shakespeares this year, at least one of them has a puppet. A solid three stars for you, Dogsberry’s little furry…ferret?

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