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Fringe 2003 Reviews (20)

Bill Shakespeare's Italian Job
Created and directed by Malachi Bogdanov
Gilded Balloon Teviot

Malachi Bogdanov has built a reputation on irreverent productions of Shakespeare. A few years ago he set Richard III amongst infants in a bouncy castle.

Now he has realised that The Italian Job (a new version is about to be released) was originally written in the early 17th Century by Bill Shakespeare. This premise allows him to have great fun sending up all and sundry.

The staging is exciting with red, white and blue minis on stage. The number plates are inevitably BARD 1 to 3. They are massively adaptable representing everything from a prison to a hearse and a crematorium.

The script manages to take quotes from most Shakespeare plays, more often appropriate than not, with Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet to the fore.

Bogdanov is constantly inventive with both the visual images and the juxtaposition of Shakespearean plot and language with that of the film. Our hero, played by Gilz Terera, may be Charlie Croker with a Michael Caine accent but he is also Antonio and Romeo, Henry V and Hamlet. Similarly, the Noel Coward role is well-played by Falstaff cum Shylock, Geoffrey Bateman.

There are many funny moments but the one that really brings the house down is a duel between Juliet (Juliet McGill) and the Nurse (Emma Kennedy) to find a name from Shakespeare for a cross-dressing girl. There are a lot to choose from!

Great fun, wickedly inventive and possibly a gentle introduction to the Bard.

Philip Fisher

Bill Shakespeare's Italian Job
Created and directed by Malachi Bogdanov
Gilded Balloon Teviot

Bob Carlton got there first, of course - using text from the whole of Shakespeare's canon to tell a story - but Carlton makes much use of music and produces his own comic musical versions of Shakespeare's plays (The Tempest in Return to the Forbidden Planet and Macbeth in From a Jack to a King) whereas here, of course, Malachi Bogdanov is telling a non-Shakespearean story.

As Philip points out in his review above, Bogdanov has built his reputation on his irreverent approach to Shakespeare but that irreverence conceals a deep understanding of the plays. His Richard III, set on a bouncy castle, brought out all the melodrama of that most melodramatic of plays, whilst his Titus Andronicus, played in nude body suits, pointed up the comic-book Grand-Guignol of a play which is so bathed in gore that it makes the excesses of Webster et al almost tame in comparison.

Here he has taken a different approach and gives us what might well be described as a romp through the bard's work, sonnets and all, built around the classic film, The Italian Job. It is very, very funny and the production values are very high. The audience loved it, from young kids (there were a couple sitting just in front of me) upwards. Clever comedy, which is enhanced the more you know of Shakespeare and the Italian Job!

Peter Lathan

Howie the Rookie
By Mark O’Rowe
In Yer Space
Rocket@Demarco Roxy Art House

Howie the Rookie is the two points of view of a fight between two Irish lads and their friends.

The Howie Lee (Matthew Bannister) is casually invited out to a fight. Partly from boredom and partly because these fights are the bonding material of this age, he finds himself in a bloodbath of an endless fight. The Rookie Lee (Ben Hynes) give us his version of the fight.

Two powerful monologues told almost in real time, give these two actors a chance to exercise their very new theatrical chops. They prove to be good for the challenge. Although Bannister starts with choreographed staging that is a little too extreme for him to make work, he does settle in near the end. Hynes nailed it from the beginning and only in the last minutes seemed to have lost the momentum of the piece.

The lighting, music and sound were so rough as to be distracting. The two would have been better on their own.

This was a powerful challenge even for the seasoned professional. With a strong but gentle hand on this production, this could have been a stellar entry to the Fringe.

Catherine Lamm

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©Peter Lathan 2003