Edinburgh Festival Fringe children’s show reviews: Shakespeare Untold: Titus Andronicus (The Piemaker’s Tale), Shakespeare Untold: Romeo and Juliet (The Party Planner’s Tale) reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter.
Shakespeare Untold: Titus Andronicus (The Piemaker’s Tale)
Shakespeare Untold: Romeo and Juliet (The Party Planner’s Tale)
Warned in advance that she might not understand everything in Titus Andronicus, the little girl sitting behind me had some sage words for her dad at the end of the show. “It wasn’t hard to follow at all,” she said, knowingly, “it was easy.” She’s absolutely right – it was. Although we can forgive her father for worrying.
Of all Shakespeare’s plays, Titus is one of the bloodiest and most complex in terms of who hates who and why. But in the hands of London’s Globe Theatre – and performer Tom Giles – the story is clear.
Despite not being present in the actual play, Giles’ character is at the heart of the action. Chef to whoever is in charge, he has two golden rules: “do your job and keep your head down”. Leaving him perfectly placed to watch unobserved, and report back on the latest killing or dismemberment.
Keeping track of the play’s characters is a challenge for anyone, regardless of age, so Giles provides entertaining re-caps to ensure there’s no confusion. Made all the easier by the ingenious way characters are presented. When Giles talks about Bassianus, he picks up a tray of cakes; when he’s Titus he flips over his teatowel; sadistic sons Chiron and Demetrius are represented by salt and pepper shakers – and so it goes on.
Sally Lofthouse is similarly entertaining as Verona’s top party planner in Romeo and Juliet. Tidying up after the big Capulet ball, she fills us in on how Romeo and Juliet met, and waits excitedly for them to celebrate their wedding (until news of their demise breaks on Twitter). As with Titus, smatterings of the original text are laced into Lofthouse’s modern day chat about social media and celebrities.
If The Party Planner’s Tale is slightly less engaging than The Piemaker’s Tale, it’s through no fault of Lofthouse. Her depiction of the fights between Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo are genuinely exciting, but elsewhere the script and direction give her less interesting ways to engage with the audience than Giles, or tell her tale.
When London’s Globe Theatre set out to make Shakespeare Untold, it had two main aims – to introduce young audiences to Shakepeare, and create good shows in their own right. They’ve achieved both.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Titus Andronicus (The Piemaker’s Tale) until 31 August / listings
Romeo and Juliet (The Party Planner’s Tale) until 31 August / listings
Main image: Geraint Lewis
Published in The Scotsman on 19 August 2015
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