Et Tu Elvie is considerably less than the sum of its parts, even though they are some of the biggest parts with which to be grappling.
Using the Seven Ages of Man as a framing device, the ‘tragedy’ is told in a series of segments of different portions of Elvis Presley’s life, from birth to the grave via love affairs and stardom. Instead of original dialogue, however, conversations surreally slip into familiar Shakespearean exchanges. The fact that this Shakespeare is performed in RSC accents adds to the bizarre atmosphere. The actors pull off camped-up southern drawls in between but switch to traditional posh English when the speeches kick in as though they cannot bear to veer from the conventional. This gives the impression that the show hasn’t committed fully to its own premise. Instead of marrying the two subjects, the show instead creates a hotchpotch of cut and paste cabaret. The stripped down stage, few members of cast and homemade style props are cute but also make the Shakespearean words even more incongruous.
The show doesn’t feel quite like a finished product; it needs something more than the central joke which is stretched rather thin. Soliloquies go on for too long, and substituting ‘Polonius’ with ‘Elvis,’ for example, is mildly amusing but is not sustainable. Et Tu Elvie picks up pace in the middle, however, in two scenes with Barnes and the Elvises. The first involves a Shakespearean romance-medley and the latter uses cleverly chosen act from Midsummer Night’s Dream to represent descent into drug addiction. Mostly, the use of Shakespeare defines shoehorning but these smooth vignettes stand out as an example of what they are trying to achieve.
The closing rendition of Are You Lonesome Tonight?, performed by both Elvises is moving and the songs are performed competently throughout. The musical numbers bring a smile to the (mostly elder) members of the audience who quietly sing along. Nonetheless, Et Tu Elvie is considerably less than the sum of its parts, even though they are some of the biggest parts with which to be grappling.