By Danielle Farrow
Shakespeare’s Boar’s Head Tavern is where Prince Hal, Falstaff and his colourful cronies hang out and now Fine Chisel – a five-strong troupe – have made sure that there’s a Boar’s Head for Fringe audiences, one with very fine craic, musically and theatrically. Their musicians / bar patrons, with the help of their barman, bring not only Falstaff’s group to life, following his journey through Henry IV (both parts), Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor, but also offer up lines, characters and songs from plays that include Hamlet, The Tempest, As You Like It, Macbeth and Richard III.
As well as rollicking good music – mostly folk, with tunes of various shades, including dramatic and comedic accompaniment, blues and rock’n’roll – there is also some fine acting. Shakespeare’s humour is handled beautifully, with a light touch – no horrendous “this is really funny, honest” mugging – and a strong understanding that allows it to breathe and thoroughly entertain. There are also sadder moments that genuinely touch the emotions and a creation of war – handled with great panache, audience ‘volunteers’, water squirters, silly string and party poppers – that turns a fun celebration down the boozer (drinks provided) into a reflection of loss and the demands of a harsher reality.
The setting is contemporary, with love letters sent on phones, and the characters and situations are very recognisable still in this day. The show may not be everyone’s cup of sack, due to the involvement of audience in the mayhem, but the way in which the group build up audience participation is rather impressive and encouraged a number of people to get thoroughly involved with their own quips and physical comedy offerings.
Fine Chisel’s encompassing humour, great musicianship and real understanding of Shakespeare, which allows a pick-and-mix selection to carry sense, meaning and storyline, ensures that it is well worth getting along to see their Boar’s Head displayed at this Zoo.