By Isabella Fraser
Billed as: “The life of Elvis Presley told as a seven part Shakespearean tragedy”, this musical theatre show as always going to be something unusual – and it is. Directed by Nancy Medina and co-created with Peter Phillips, it is overly complex. The dichotomy of this production as a whole does not work, yet strangely the individual separate parts do – there is promise here for more cohesive storytelling. Parallels between the scenes from Shakespeare and the stages of Presley’s life are clear – we follow his path every step of the way. The songs are keenly appreciative of Presley’s emotions at alternative life situations. However, the many changes serve to make parts of it seem rushed: so too, the glance at every stage of his life seems to pass by like whirlwinds so that only a cursory glance is given to the deeper issues. While this is supposed to be a fun production – and while not meant to be a full in-depth biopic on Presley’s life – it may have helped to allow the audience to develop an emotional connection, rather than simply see the areas of Shakespeare that complement the story.
However, the songs are well chosen and performed with great style and charisma by Older Elvis, Karl Wilson. He has a warm and engaging voice, managing to portray both the power and sadness of Presley’s tones with a dedication that makes it clear from the beginning just who he is. Peter Baker as Younger Elvis is less successful, although this may be due to the propensity to make him move and pout as Elvis, but rarely sing, although he too has a lovely tone in his vocals.
The two witches – Amy Barnes and Kate Mayne – are feisty and perform well, particularly with the Shakespeare pieces. Indeed, the Shakespearian sections, while at times clunky in fitting into the flow of action, are well performed by the entire cast. There is a strong commitment to the text and it is a delight to hear both good diction and clarity in what is meant. It is only when there is singing that Barnes and Mayne are not often given the opportunity to shine as the light, quite rightly, belongs to the Elvis characters.
If you want to know more about the life of Elvis, or simply want to hear his songs performed well, then this production will be of interest to you.
Et Tu Elvie runs until 25 August at C+3 in C Venues at 22.55. Running time is 1 hour 5 mins.