Repertory Theatre, from Israeli company Elephant and the Mouse, actually comes the closest of all the shows seen by this reviewer to gaining 5 stars this Fringe (and that’s not for lack of seeing plays others have given such). The only thing missing here is an ending that fully engages with the story being told as opposed to one that, while clever and reflecting the manner of the story-telling – with its theatrical self-references – doesn’t actually add to the playwright’s journey that starts the show off.
That quibble over, know that this fantastically energetic, clever and entertaining piece, rooted in theatre traditions and modern presentations, hooks its audience from the first with playing that has grimaces, physical ticks and strange quirks that feel as if they can be part of a genuine character and yet are surreal. The unfolding of the play then brings a whole new meaning to these amusing and confusing gestures in a beautifully apt and well-performed twist grounded in the subject matter itself.
Though a quote from Richard III is included and there are echoes of Macbeth, Repertory Theatre focuses on Hamlet. A would-be playwright, whose father died on stage while performing this role, brings his first play to the Artistic Director who was as a brother to his dead father. For a while the production seems a vehicle for the magnetic acting of the director character, but just as this thought begins to grate, changes are wrought and balance in performance achieved.
Every element of the staging is also put to excellent performance use, from a dummy with clothes and sword, hanging picture frames and a dish of plums on a desk to two plain chairs and even a mug with slogans worth noting.
Using aspects of meta-theatre, repetition, great comic timing, elements of clowning, complete commitment to vocal sound and physicality, awareness of audience members – and how to play with them – and of how to create dramatic tension, the script, direction and performances produce a piece of theatre that fascinates, surprises, delights, provokes, and all-round stimulates.
Repertory Theatre is hugely engaging and entertaining, whether or not you are a theatre fan – catch it while you can!