FRINGE REVIEW – Shakespeare‘s Mothers, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

*****

5-21 Aug (not 16) 1315 (1405) @ C central, North Bridge

By Danielle Farrow

In this gallop through many of Shakespeare’s finest scenes driven by strong, passionate and yes, bad and mad, women, the Bard himself sets the spurs to this supposed examination of how such females might be influencing violence committed by women nowadays. This frame is a tongue-in-cheek device – set up as a television arts show – and allows introduction to the various pieces performed.
 
While some of the information is a little simple in its academic reasoning, this is not an academic show – it is lively, humorous, for the most part very energetic and it does impart some facts of interest to do with Shakespeare and his players, with frequent reference to ‘the lads’ that played his female roles. Great Shakespearean women – Lady Macbeth, Tamora, Lear’s daughters, Queen Margaret, these and more – make their presence known and two of the trio of performers are strong in direct energy and motivation.
 
However, there is also a certain amount of supposed ‘Shakespearean acting’ in evidence too. This is that phenomenon whereby focus is mostly on very clear line delivery with more posing than actual inhabiting of character, always a very real shame when we want the fascinating people Shakespeare created in his writing to really be there on the stage before us and not just demonstrated in unconnected portrayals. For the most part, though, this was restricted to a few of the female characters and only occasionally showed in the actor playing Shakespeare and (almost) every other male character that appeared.
 
Staging is somewhat mundane, with little variation in how scenes are presented, but costume assists the numerous changes well, humour and verve keeps the audience entertained, and the characters are clearly delivered, with some fine performances by one of the actresses, who was able to switch well between the drama of roles such as Lady Macbeth and the comedy treatment given Lady Faulconbridge – who mothered a child by Richard the Lionheart, she’d have you know!

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