The best Shakespeare coming to Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018
- Gareth K Vile
- 17 July 2018
This article is from 2018
Whether it's a rugby-inspired Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet from the perspective of the skull, catch the best of the Bard this August
The continued importance of Shakespeare is not entirely healthy for theatre: the status of the Bard encourages an emphasis on the script as the template of the play (ignoring the fundamental importance of dramaturgy which raises theatre above being an extension of the literary experience) and a colonialist ideal that certain ideas and experiences are universal.
However, he did write some amazing poetry, knew a good, entertaining story and the familiarity of his major scripts allows imaginative directors to adapt, spin or distort his words for surprising or contemporary interpretations.
For some audiences, a trip to the Fringe without at least a token Shakespeare is a wasted adventure, so here are ten ways that Shakespeare can be tasted at the Fringe.
Framed around a 1941 amateur production, Time and Time Again mash up comedy, deliberate bad acting, vintage style and Henry V (with its anti-French subtext adding a little Brexit context to the WWII setting).
theSpace on the Mile, 3 – 18 Aug
Hamlet (An Experience)
Brite Theatre go solo as Hamlet invites the audience to help 'resolve the great questions of life'. Probably emphasising Hamlet's existential crisis rather than the whole mother issue, interactivity is threatened.
Sweet Novotel, 2 – 26 Aug
Hamlet – Horatio's Tale
Dead jesters are undeniably an excluded voice, so relating the Dane's adventures in vengeance from the perspective of the skull who receives Hamlet's poetic mansplaining is well overdue. Featuring Derek Jacobi as the Ghost, probably via the magic of video.
Assembly Rooms, 3 – 26 Aug
Apparently 'the defending National Shakespeare Acting Champions' are doing this 'trip to 13th-century Britain' (it's England, actually). Whether having competitions for acting is a step too far into competitive performance, or an echo of its roots in the Athenian tragedy competitions of the fifth century BC, King John is a less familiar script that deals with notions of absolute power and democracy.
theSpace @Niddry Street, 9 – 11Aug
Much Ado About Nothing
Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company update the play that has amused generations of school-children for the naughty pun in its title to 1980s Sicily.
theSpace@Niddry Street, 20 – 25 Aug
A story of society after monogamy 'inspired by the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community' may not be exactly raw Romeo and Juliet, although it does feature star-crossed lovers. But it is presented by King Edward VI School, which calls itself Shakespeare's School in the Fringe brochure.
C too, 19 – 23 Aug
Romeo and Juliet
Whether it's an interactive version, an LGBTQ+ remix featuring rival rugby teams, a theatre company who ride their bikes to performances (the HandleBards, becoming Fringe familiars thanks to their cycling antics) or a two-hander in a 'glowing white box', the star-crossed lovers are this years winner in the most number of productions for a single Shakespeare play.
Assembly George Square, 15 – 19 Aug
Zoo Chateris, 3 – 26 Aug
theSpace @Niddry Street, 3 – 18 Aug
Romeo and/or Juliet, Central Hall, 3 – 8 Aug
J'n'R, Greenside @ Infirmary Street, Ivy Studio, 6 – 11 Aug
Disappointingly, there are apparently no versions of Macbeth in the Fringe brochure: a few years ago, there were pages listing the productions the Scottish play (probably because it tied in with the tourist board's latest wheeze to get North Americans to enjoy the Caledonian sunshine and discover their ancestry in a kilt shop on Princes Street). However, the Fringe is the best place for a Shakespeare fix: most productions trim them down to fit with the timetable of venues, meaning the Bard's languorous structures are shoved into an hour.