Tortive Theatre/Finding The Will have taken an interesting decision not only to put out their six connected monologues as one off live performances but to do so at the rate of one per week. This approach has worked largely because lockdown has confined most of us to quarters so, in that sense the timing is impeccable. If nothing else this policy has had the effect of drawing together a group audience who have become regulars and given us time to savour the delights of each piece rather than using a box set mentality to rush on to the next. This review covers the second set of three plays; a review of the first three can be found here.
Malvolio’s last line in Twelfth Night is “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you” and in The Whirligig Of Time we catch up with him at the point where has achieved that particular ambition and takes us into his confidence. It’s a tale that encompasses poisoning, arson, divorce, banishment and driving someone deliberately mad just as once others had tried to do to him. This Malvolio is a bundle of barely supressed anger as he reflects on and replays events in his mind although he seems to have got little sense of satisfaction from the outcomes. Richard Curnow’s excellent interpretation of the character shows he has lost none of his superiority complex and the penchant for disdain which got the character into problems in the first place. The anger management course he has purportedly been on seems to have done little to mollify his rage; his eyes flash with fury as he recalls the circumstances of his own degradation and with a sense of glee when describing the fates of his various persecutors. The demise of Maria, Olivia’s serving maid, is especially relished as the gruesome details are revealed – but in Malvolio’s eyes she was just getting her comeuppance. This is essentially a black comedy which partly seemed to be in the style of an Ealing film (Kind Hearts and Coronets, perhaps) which certainly supports the old adage that “revenge is a dish best served cold”.
The Queen’s Speech revisits Miranda years after the events of The Tempest. The piece starts off by wrong footing the audience as Miranda, now technically in charge, gives the speech of the title to the populace; it is full of cliched platitudes and has been obviously sanitised for public consumption. Quite soon she is revealing what she really thinks and tells us that she and husband Ferdinand and their daughter have been placed under house arrest by the Republic of Naples and she is only being trotted out to quell any potential rumours. So, it seems that her “brave new world” isn’t quite so wondrous after all. Truth to tell she’d rather be back on the desert island where Caliban seems to have become a well-regarded revolutionary leader – she also has rather more personal reasons for wanting to go back and see him. And so, she decides to take matters into her own hands with the help of some of the other characters who appeared in the original drama; main character Prospero is nearing the end of life and plays no part in proceedings. Jules Hobbs does a nice line in withering superiority and clearly delineates the public persona from the private individual; she’s certainly a rather different person all these years on.
The final piece takes Romeo and Juliet as its inspiration in the person of Friar Lawrence who, along with the latter’s Nurse, helped the teenagers to realise their ambition and instigated events which led to their death. While the title of the piece may be Happy As Larry, he is clearly far from that. He’s been left holding the baby as far as blame is concerned and been kicked out of Verona. Like Romeo before him, he travels to Mantua where he encounters the Apothecary who sold the lover the poison which finished him just as the Friar had used his own herbal knowledge to fake the girl’s death. It is clear that the pair are two sides of the same coin and this is certainly reinforced by Richard Curnow inhabiting both roles not to mention those of the Nurse, Prince Escalus and Lady Capulet – clearly as she would have been played by Edith Evans. In essence then this becomes the multi-character tale of those who survived the otherwise general corpse pile up that occurs in Shakespeare’s original. Thus, it departs a little from the original concept where other characters are generally referred to rather than actually appear. However, this helps to raise the level of interest in the performance and Curnow makes a good job of differentiating them and bringing them to life. There’s also a nice running joke about his dog being called Jesus which introduces the idea of the character questioning his own faith and belief system – “Jesus, where are you?” he existentially cries.
It’s been an interesting and entertaining series over the last six weeks and provided some insight into what might have happened next with these characters from some of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays. I can see why these pieces were originally popular in schools as starting points for discussion about the original texts and it’s nice that they have found a wider audience during these difficult times. The team have announced that next month they are moving into the world of cabaret so bonne chance with that.
Bard Heads has now finished its run of performances but for more details – click here
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