Philotus (3 stars)

This article is from 2008.

This is one of only two surviving Scottish plays from the time of Shakespeare. This Fringe production is a rare staging, and its first-ever appearance during the Festival. On its own, that is probably a good enough reason to see it.

The key to this production is an awareness of the influence of the Commedia dell'arte tradition. The main character is portrayed a little like Groucho Marx, and the physcial theatre elements that have been restored to the play are among the strongest aspects of this staging.

This physicality helps to offset the challenge presented by complex dialogue in Renaissance Scottish verse. Occasionally, some of the young cast lack the gleeful enthusiasm that smuttiness of the text demands (as one modern supporter has cheerfuly observed, "If a line ends in luck, you may be sure that the next rhyme will be fuck").

That said, the play really hits it stride half way through. The most effective scene juxtaposes the hero's psychological self-destruction with a plaintive sixteenth-century Edinburgh folk-song, sung by the heroine, which works beautifully.

For a comedy, this performance seemed to produce more silent smiles than belly-laughs, but when I left the theatre, I was definitely grinning.

Philotus, Commedia della Scozia, Zoo Southside, 3:45pm until Sat 16 Aug, £8 (£7)

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