Subversive clowns from the English underground
It's like a student theatre nightmare. Ridiculous over-acting, the flimsiest and crudest of plots and the high-flown language of Shakespeare debased for a series of crass jokes battle against a serious intention and a lively late-night audience. A sing-along is led by an out of tune ukulele, the actors drop character to enjoy their own jokes and an audience member is sexually harassed. Droll collapses under the weight of its tropes, from the braggart sailor through to the slutty wife and the brazen lover. Even the final passionate speech for the revival of the appreciation of this type of theatre, leader Brice Stratford is interrupted by another cast member and storms off stage in a sulk.
Fortunately, this captures the spirit of the drolls, a collection of performers who, when England banned theatre under the Puritans, had no choice but to go underground, touring pubs and alley-ways with corrupted versions of renaissance drama. Stratford is an advocate for the drolls, and the script he uses is direct from the 17th century, filled with the gutter humour and stereotypes that served as the only available theatre at the time.
As a project, this revival is both hilarious and valuable, and Stratford points out that the legacy of the drolls can be seen in music hall, contemporary comedy and restoration theatre. But it is as a late-night Fringe performance that the drolls are more than an academic project, and become a living, entertaining show that has a common touch, a party atmosphere and space for wild humour.
theSpace on the Mile, run ended