FRINGE REVIEW – The Mandrake, Zoo Southside

*****

6 – 30 Aug 1340 (1510) @ Zoo Southside

By Danielle Farrow

The Mandrake is a 17th century English version of Machiavelli’s satire La Mandragola, adapted by James Compton, 3rd Earl of Northampton, and premiered here by Foul Papers Theatre
. Though the language is hardly everyday, this production is a fun, witty and dexterous romp through the machinations of young Leaveland, who is set on seducing a virtuous wife and manages to acquire the full support and blessing of her much-deluded husband.

 
Director Luke Beattie has no need for a set as he inspires his actors to fill the space, use the auditorium well, really connect with their audience and infuse their delightfully devious characters with detailed life. As is usual in such a play, the characters’ names reflect their personalities and actions, so a loyal servant is named ‘Trusty’ and the parson full of sophistry, who twists scripture to serve his avarice, is called ‘Renchetext’, while ’Lackwealth’ is an excellent scrounging scoundrel who orchestrates the action.
 
The recorded sound – Michael Whytock’s original harpsichord music – builds environment well right from the start, though occasionally an interlude seems overlong, given the lack of set and little need for costume changes. The pace is moved forward by the hero’s energy and Lackwealth’s spirited guile, but does falter on occasion due to one actor’s insecurity at this preview time. Despite this, while The Mandrake is a longer-than-usual Fringe offering (1hr. 30), the time spent is richly rewarded.
 
This is mostly due to the detail in direction and performances: Matthew Howard, in an emotional roller-coaster of a role as Leaveland, sets up the other characters beautifully before they ever appear; Rob Stott’s Lackwealth communicates thoughts with great clarity; Jeryl Burgess creates a fully textured and hilarious Old Lady to counterpoint her impeccable heroine’s mother; the heroine herself, played by Claire Jared, makes a lovely piece of her response to all the machinations, and John Canmore delivers the wily parson with aplomb and a delightful wink or two to the ladies.
 
If you love to see people sinking their thespian teeth into complex classical thought and dialogue and sharing their sumptuous feast with you, then make sure you attend this serving of The Mandrake potion!

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