Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Simon Callow in Juvenalia at Assembly Hall (Venue 35). Review by Sally Stott
The problem with billing Simon Callow’s latest one-man show as “stand-up comedy as last delivered in Rome AD 100” is that, despite the fact the bigoted words literally come from another era, there’s an implication that that we should be laughing along with them.
Certainly, that’s what half of the older audience members seem to be doing, perhaps secretly pleased that someone – even if it’s Roman writer Juvenal – is still being given a voice to condemn “green-eyed whorish wives”, gay people and foreigners simply for being who they are.
But in fairness Callow is such simultaneously formidable and hospitable performer that it’s easy to find yourself getting caught up with anything said in that rich, booming voice of his.
However, viewed for what it is – a translation (by Peter Green, adapted by Richard Quick) of satires written almost two thousand years ago – the piece is a fascinating insight into everyday Roman life and the fact that many of our attitudes, despicable as they are, haven’t changed.
Yes, it’s debatable whether Juvenal intended us to laugh at or with him, but whether it’s a street mugging or gossiping neighbours heading to the Games it brings ancient Rome to life in a way that history books cannot.
Until 25 August. Today 3:30pm, more info
Originally published in The Scotsman
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