The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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There’s a good amount of Shakespeare-based work for children and young people at the fringe, which is a great way to introduce children to his work as well as give theatre makers a chance to experiment with different styles when approaching the bard’s text. The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare is a mashup of his most popular plays and characters with a biography of his life. There’s a lot packed into an hour, perhaps too much for the primary school middle years that are the target audience age. The show is otherwise well written, well performed and the story line constructed out of Shakespeare’s life gives it a solid grounding on which to sample extracts of his work.

Six Bristol Old Vic students perform Toby Hulse’s script. Though there isn’t a weak link amongst the cast, the strongest by far is Georgia Frost. She has a charisma and stage presence that the others lack, though they all show promise. The company handles their verse well, maintains high energy and warmly encourage the audience of children to join in.

The script is quick and punchy, most valuable for giving the young audience context about Shakespeare as a person in a easily digestible format framed by his “seven ages of man” monologue – a fantastic idea that parallels a short piece of text to a story. There are gags, games and songs that are interactive and playful, though more time could be taken within each activity in order to allow the audience to engage fully. The characters and scenes that are included are some of the most well known, kept short and explained well. There are a lot of them though, and the sheer amount is potentially overwhelming for the younger children in the audience.

Comparable to the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), this is a jolly, friendly romp through Shakespeare’s life and works that’s great for a young audience. Some tweaking to either cut some of the characters or pitch it to slightly older children would make this an even stronger piece, but it’s polished, slick and jolly good fun compared to similar shows on offer.

The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare runs through 19th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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A cultural relic of its time, the bible is hardly pro-women. Lucy McCormick, here incarnated as one of those vapid pop stars who evangelically (and often inappropriately) rallies for the cause they’re currently backing, wants to turn the spotlight on the new testament’s women. She focuses on their underwritten stories, their emotional involvement in Jesus’ life, and all the fingering and angel snogging that was left out of the text we know so well in Western culture.

Trashy, tasteless, obscene, and absolutely excellent, McCormick’s newest show pushes theatre to to limits of acceptability and beyond – any further and it would be pornographic (arguably it already is), though Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat is still not one for those easily offended. Accompanied by two muscly dancers in Calvins, her three-act play that she dutifully explains scene by scene is the story of Jesus Christ. She plays Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother Mary, and Jesus himself, with her backing dancers in the supporting roles. It’s also very funny, though laughter swells from amusement as much as it does from discomfort.

This gig-theatre piece is interspersed with appropriate pop songs at key moments of the story, accompanied by excellent dancing and raw emotional outbursts. Her personal life bleeds into the act as she slowly falls apart in the wake of the pressures of celebrity life. Take all of those public celeb breakdowns and multiply them by hundreds with a lot more nudity and mess, and you get something resembling the whirlwind of in-yer-face chaos that is Lucy’s stage persona in this piece.

Her commitment to her cause is unquestionable, but the fact that her character finds the actions that unfold acceptable is disturbing, yet all too familiar. That we can watch someone fall to bits with no dignity and laugh at their plight, righteously judging them, is a powerful comment on the levels of voyeurism and exhibitionism that are now bombard us through all of media’s incarnations.

Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat, for all its deliberate mess and audience discomfort, is a fantastically considered social commentary executed with precision and high levels of consideration and skill. It’s the epitome of fringe shows, and a great one at that.

Lucy McCormick: Triple Threat runs through 28th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.