Ancient antagonist brought into 21st century by Simon Callow at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2014.
When Simon Callow first performed Juvenal's Satires, he was a young man: returning to the words of the Roman poet as an older man, and part of the theatrical establishment, he shares a respectable status and seniority with the writer. Although he never quite manages to convince that these satires are a direct equivalent of stand-up comedy – the references to Latin names and Imperial titles rather date the subject matter – Callow gives a strong performance that emphasises the rough-hewn eloquence of the ancient antagonist.
Juvenal's complaints have contemporary resonances: he has a social conservatism that worries about gay marriage, women's liberation and the influx of immigrants. Callow enjoys the funny foreigner voices that litter the text, and while there are moments of compassion and calm, it is the rage against changing times that is most amusing and engaging. Callow's measured delivery lends Juvenal's anger a thoughtfulness, and the amiable persona belies the frustration of the words.
The pleasure of the show comes from Callow's obvious charisma, and his ability to invest various characters with a Dickensian surrealism. A gentle hour, perhaps too gentle, for the writer who defined comic satire for the ages.
Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 25 Aug, 3.30pm £17.50– £20 (£15).